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the representation, together with the time frame within which
the client may expect to know the outcome of the retention.
Misunderstandings over fees are a constant source of nonpayment or, worse, malpractice claims and grievances. An estimated
budget of the cost of the representation—subject, of course, to
revision as the matter proceeds and unanticipated events occur—
will go a long way toward avoiding the misunderstandings that
can cause a breakdown in the client-attorney relationship. If an
attorney is concerned that a client will not retain the attorney if
a realistic cost estimate is provided up front, the attorney should
know that the client is never going to be happy with the services
rendered as fees mount beyond the client’s expectations.
If it is anticipated that the compensation spelled out in the
engagement letter will change during the representation, the attor-
ney should advise the client in the engagement letter of the circum-
stances warranting any increase in fees and the parameters of any
projected change. In addition to the fact that Rule 1. 5 states that
“[a]ny changes in the basis or rate of the fee or expenses shall also be
communicated to the client,” many jurisdictions will exercise a high
degree of scrutiny to changes in the terms of compensation that are
not detailed in an engagement letter, particularly where the changes
inure solely to the benefit of the attorney. Additional factors that may
negate the ability to change the terms of compensation include the
sophistication of the client and the timing of the requested change.