Attorneys and clients are in a confidential relationship, one that demands the lawyer’s absolute loyalty and zealous representation of client interests. But what if the client refuses to pay his or her lawyer? At that point, the broad and categorical demands of the ethics rules run up against the practical business of running a law practice. This clash of interests raises a range of substantial ethical issues. How can the lawyer compel payment yet continuing representing a client? Must he or she withdraw from the representation? Can the lawyer sue the client or place a lien on client property? Is the lawyer allowed to breach certain confidences in obtaining payment? This program will provide you with a guide to the ethical issues that arise when a client refuses to pay for a lawyer’s legal services, practical methods to ethically obtain payment, and best practices to avoid these disputes.
· Ethics when clients refuse to pay their lawyers’ fees
· How to manage the direct conflict with a client without breaching confidences
· Determining whether continuing a representation is permissible or required
· When and how a withdrawal from a representation is permitted in the cases of non-payment of fees
· Ethical issues when a lawyer places a lien on client property or sues the client
· Issues when no-payment relates to one of multiple representations of a client
· Understanding related attorney-client privilege issues
· Best practices in engagement letters and billing practices to protect lawyers
Thomas E. Spahn is a partner in the McLean, Virginia office of McGuireWoods, LLP, where he has a broad complex commercial, business and securities litigation practice. He also has a substantial practice advising businesses on properly creating and preserving the attorney-client privilege and work product protections. For more than 20 years he has lectured extensively on legal ethics and professionalism and has written “The Attorney-Client Privilege and the Work Product Doctrine: A Practitioner’s Guide,” a 750 page treatise published by the Virginia Law Foundation. Mr. Spahn has served as member of the ABA Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility and as a member of the Virginia State Bar's Legal Ethics Committee. He received his B.A., magna cum laude, from Yale University and his J.D. from Yale Law School.
Matthew Corbin is Vice President and Director in the Professional Services Group of AON Risk Services, where he consults with the company’s law firm clients on professional responsibility and liability issues. Before joining AON, he was a partner with Lathrop & Gage, LLP, where he was a trial and appellate lawyer handling professional liability, commercial, business tort, employment, construction, insurance, and regulatory matters. Before entering private practice, he served as a judicial clerk to Judge Mary Briscoe of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. Mr. Corbin earned his B.A. from the University of Kansas and his J.D. from the University of Kansas School of Law.