Essential Provisions In Your Representation Agreement

Whenever you want legal help from a lawyer, he or she will give you a representation agreement to sign. This document outlines the terms of your contract with your lawyer. The agreement is necessary even if you are close friends with your attorney, so don't be surprised if he or she insists on it. The agreement contains many things, but the essential ones include these four:

Legal Fees

This is one of the most obvious things to include in the contract, and it's not just about the relevant amount. The agreement must specify the type of fees to be paid—for example, is it fixed or hourly, and does it include a retainer?

Note that, for some issues, the lawyer's fees may not depend on the outcome of the case. This may not just be your lawyer's policy; even your state's laws may prevent it. For example, most states do not allow divorce attorneys to peg their fees on the outcomes of the divorces they handle. Therefore, this is not something you should push for.

Case Expenses

Apart from the legal fees, you must also discuss the issue of associated costs and when the money is to be paid. These include expenses for travel, court filing, transcripts and others. These are your responsibilities, and the agreement must include how they are to be paid.

Extent of the Representation

The contract must specify what the lawyer is helping you with. It should specify the aim of the representation and when it is expected to end. For example, if you are pursuing a personal injury case, does the representation end when the lawyer wins the case or when he or she collects the judgment? Note that some of these decisions may not be up to the attorney; your state's laws may be the driving forces. For example, collaborative divorce lawyers aren't allowed to represent their clients if collaboration fails and the divorces end up in court.


Communication between you and your lawyer is very important. For example, he or she may need a decision that only you can make, and he or she must have a way of reaching you. Not just that, but you should also be kept reliably informed of your case's progress. It's also good to know when and how you can obtain a copy of your file.

As usual, don't sign anything unless you don't understand. Just ask your lawyer (like those on the Hensley Law Team) to explain it to you succinctly so that you sign the document knowing very well what you are getting into.