Vol. 82, No. 8, August 2009
The Firm’s Areas of Practice
The law firm recognizes that it can provide value to its clients by concentrating in the practice areas of land use and real estate litigation.
The firm accepts clients requiring assistance in the following practice areas:
- Real estate development and litigation
- Environmental matters
- Zoning and planning board proceedings and appeals
- State agency permitting and procedures
- Tax abatement applications and appeals
- Eminent domain matters and regulatory takings
Matters not related to the above practice areas will not be accepted without the
specific approval of the managing partner.
Initial Client Meeting
The following matters must be covered during the initial client meeting:
- Check for conflicts.
- Listen to the client’s story.
- Relate back to the client the significant parts of the story.
- Determine with specificity the client’s objective.
- Describe to the client the law that applies to the problem.
- Share with the client the matter plan or case plan.
- Identify additional needed information.
- Establish the method of charging legal fees and tell the client the amount of the fee or a realistic estimate.
Fee Agreements and Fee Deposits
It is the policy of the law firm to have a written fee agreement for every matter and a fee deposit for all new clients.
- A fee agreement must be executed before beginning every matter.
- For every new client, before commencing the work the lawyer shall obtain from the client an initial fee deposit (to be set based on the magnitude of the work to follow but not less than $2,500).
- The fee agreement will clearly designate whether the fee deposit is to be held until the end of the process or, in the alternative, used for payment of the ongoing periodic statements and replenished when exhausted.
- Exceptions to the fee deposit requirement may be made, with the approval of the managing partner, for major clients for whom it is deemed not necessary or not attainable.
The Reality Check
The client must appreciate the difficulties and the costs of going forward.
- Have a discussion with the client at the end of the initial client meeting to be sure the client is prepared for what is to follow.
- Discuss potential difficulties of the case and the burdens it will place on the client.
- Be sure the client understands the costs involved and is prepared to pay for your services.
Confirming the Plans
The lawyer is responsible for documenting the arrangement.
- One signed copy of the fee agreement should be given to the client and a second copy should be placed in the file.
- The lawyer should send the client a written acknowledgment of receipt of any fee deposit, including a statement that the deposit is being held in the firm’s trust account.
- The lawyer should send a letter covering any additional aspects of the representation not covered in the fee agreement. The letter should be used to further manage the client’s expectations.