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Contract for Legal Services vs. Client Plan

I think it scares my clients when I ask them to sign a contract with me. Especially when they’re coming to me because they were just burned in a contract with someone else.

It’s partly my fault.

My previous contract was proudly titled: Contract for Legal Services. I was trying to be a good lawyer, explaining exactly what the document is about. It made sense to my rational brain.

But then I started thinking that maybe the title is daunting. I decided the title itself might be scaring clients.

I read a great article on alternative billing by Jim Calloway and Mark Robertson that talks about the idea of having a “Case Plan.” I love the idea! It present the contract as a roadmap for the work, instead of a scary legal agreement.

Since only some of my clients have actual litigation cases, I decided to call my document a “Client Plan.” That has the double-bonus of putting the focus on the client. My practice really is about serving the clients.

Yeah, this is a small detail. But small things add up. And little details can be huge improvements.

Photo by Sakurako Kitsa

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8 Responses to “Contract for Legal Services vs. Client Plan”

  1. Spearypearl
    October 24th, 2008

    The post is good. There will be growth only when others try to hinder us. A good and healthy competition.

  2. DanGTD
    November 4th, 2008

    Nice tip.
    It will put the emphasis on what you are going to do for the client, instead on creating a negative impression.

  3. Veronica
    November 9th, 2008

    This picture of sandwich face is quite funny. I remember when I used to make some these when I was a kid.

  4. Andrew Flusche
    November 9th, 2008

    @Veronica – I’m glad you like it. I thought it was hilarious!

  5. Andres Berger
    November 10th, 2008

    Thanks for the quick tip, quite often you forget how some of your earlier written documents may not be up to par. Which reminds me I need to go back and tweak mine.

    Thanks for the reminder

  6. Chuck Newton
    November 13th, 2008

    We call them retainer agreements. Somehow an agreement has a better interpretation than an contract. An agreement seems to mean that there is an agreement between a couple of people, and a contract has a meaning similar to “we have taken out a contract on you”.

  7. Andrew Flusche
    November 13th, 2008

    @Chuck – I generally like the “retainer agreement” title. But it confuses me, due to the technical meaning of “retainer” in the context of legal fees. Since a “retainer” fee is paid to reserve an attorney’s time, it seems appropriate that a “retainer agreement” would be an agreement where the client is paying a retainer fee.

    I know that’s nit-picky. You can retain someone’s services without the technical meaning of the legal fee system.

    Thanks for your comment!

  8. Litigation Lawyer Minneapolis
    November 15th, 2008

    Great ideas. I like your client focus.

    I generally use a “retainer agreement” for all matters. One retainer agreement form is for litigation and other matters requiring a retainer fee. The other form is for fixed-fee matters. I understand the rationale for not calling the fixed-fee agreement a “retainer agreement,” but in my view, the client is still retaining me: this document records that I have been retained for an attorney-client relationship.

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