Most of us have been taught to honor a contract when we sign on the dotted line, even if it turns out later on that we missed the fine print. But there are plenty of cases where we fully understand the contract and have every intention of abiding by the terms of service. For example, you retain the services of a personal injury attorney after an accident that was caused by someone else. But as time goes on, you’re struggling to make ends meet and realize that things will be tough for a long time, even after you receive your settlement.
People in this situation may find themselves asking, “Can I re-negotiate on a contingency fee agreement with my lawyer?”
This question is particularly important for clients that have contingency fee agreements with their law firms. In essence, the lawyer has agreed to receive a portion of the client’s settlement in lieu of upfront or hourly payments. This system allows clients to obtain legal representation immediately, without worrying about how they will pay for an attorney. However, it does present certain problems when a client is asking to re-negotiate fees, considering that the client was never charged upfront to begin with.
Fortunately, there is still a way to modify fee agreements, even if your lawyer agreed to represent you on a contingency basis. However, there are various legal and ethical issues that cannot be overlooked with these arrangements. This article will discuss some of these issues, along with advice on what you can do if your lawyer refuses to re-negotiate your fee agreement.
For more information regarding your rights and legal options, please give us a call to speak with an experienced accident injury lawyer.
Can I Negotiate Attorney’s Fees with the Law Firm after I Sign the Paperwork?
Legally, there is nothing to stop a lawyer and their client from modifying a fee agreement after they enter into a contract for legal services. This can be done at any point during the case, though your law firm is not obligated to re-negotiate the terms of an existing agreement.
Any changes to a contingency fee agreement, including the percentage of the settlement that will go towards attorney’s fees, must be in writing. The agreement must be signed by the client after it’s clear that they’ve clearly understood the terms of the revised contract. In addition, the client should be given the opportunity to seek counsel from a third party (another lawyer) to ensure that the modification is fair and in their best interest.
Ethical Concerns Regarding Re-Negotiation of Legal Fees
The State Bar of California is the entity that determines what is or is not professional conduct by attorneys, including contractual agreements with their clients. Thus, it makes sense for both attorneys and clients to turn to the Board when they are re-negotiating fees for a personal injury lawsuit. Unfortunately, the State Bar’s Rules of Professional Conduct offers no guidance regarding the negotiation or re-negotiation of lawyer’s fees. Rather, it does not expressly prohibit such agreements, thereby making allowances for the changes in hourly or contingency-based fees on a client’s case.
However, the Bar does make it clear that all modifications to an existing fee agreement will be closely scrutinized to ensure that “it is fair, reasonable, fully explained and consented to by the client.” This was based on a recommendation by the Committee on Professional Responsibility and Conduct in their report, titled Uncertain Ethics Requirements for Attorney Fee Modifications Counsel Compliance with Rule 3-300 when Modifying a Fee Agreement. The same report goes on to say that attorneys must “advise the client in writing that he or she may wish to consult independent counsel and give the client a reasonable opportunity to do so.”
These are vital considerations when you think of the disadvantage that clients are at when they are entering into a legal agreement with an attorney. However, it’s important for clients to protect themselves by asking questions when they don’t understand something in a modified contract. In addition, never be afraid to second-guess anything that you’re not 100% comfortable with. And remember – you have every right to speak to another lawyer if you need clarification on the terms of a modified fee structure before you put your name on the contract.
Can I Get a New Lawyer if my Current Attorney Won’t Re-Negotiate their Fee?
Switching your lawyer is something you can do at any point in your case, so technically; the answer to this question is yes. But this is a critical decision when you are in the middle of a lawsuit, and there are various consequences you must be aware of before you fire your attorney. To ensure that you’re making the right choice, please consider a free second opinion from the legal experts of DTLA Law Group.
Our goal is to review the terms of your contract, the details of your case, and the work that’s been done on your case so far. Perhaps there are other reasons to change law firms, aside from your lawyer’s refusal to negotiate their fees. In that case, transferring your case to our law firm and allowing us to take over your claim may be in your best interest. But you won’t know for sure until you meet with us for a free second opinion, which you can schedule by contacting our office.
Zero Fee Guarantee
Our law firm is committed to the rights of accident victims, including the right to free legal representation. The cost of legal services should come from the party that’s responsible for the accident, which is why we offer a Zero Fee Guarantee to all our clients.
Under this policy, you receive free legal services from day one, starting with your initial consultation. Our expenses are charged to the defendant and included in the settlement check you receive at the end of your case. What happens in the event we don’t recover your payment? We eat the costs, and you walk away without spending a penny, since we don’t get paid unless you get paid.
With decades of experience in personal injury law, we know the struggle that you’re going through as an injury victim. We look forward to assisting you in your journey to recovery, so please take this opportunity to schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys.