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Is there any "statute of limitations" on invoicing for services rendered in CA ? Any ethics rule for attorneys in CA ?

Belmont, CA |

A lawyer took a$20,000 retainer, rendered services (no dispute about the services) and client THOUGHT that retainer covered services.........over one year later, he receives an invoice for another (almost) $50,000. Is there any law in California on the enforceability or "collectability" of invoices after any certain period of time?

Thank you to all......the engagement letter did say that the firm would bill monthly, which never happened. He tells me that he never saw even one invoice. So, technically the attorney is in breach. The matter came to a conclusion, and then, a fully year later (after conclusion of the matter), he receives an invoice. I had already looked at CCP 337 before posting this question. I am just asking whether anyone is aware of a time limitation on invoicing for services rendered, apart from the CCP provisions? I couldn't find an ethics ruling ......and, I want to confirm that it is wholly permissible for an attorney to wake up and decide to bill a past client after so long a time. Does this added texture trigger any additional response ?

Attorney Answers 3


  1. You should look at the Fee/Retainer Agreement (the contract you entered into when you hired the lawyer) to see what services were covered/not covered under the retainer and/or how additional monies would be requested.


  2. The client needs to review the written attorney-client agreement. That agreement covers the terms of the attorney's representation -- not what the client thought. A client is entitled to an invoice from an attorney within 10 days of asking for one. I assume the client did not ask for one and the invoice was rendered at the conclusion of the matter.

    While perhaps unusual and not the best practice, IMO, it is not unlawful to withhold an invoice until the conclusion of a matter or the happening of some event.

    The client’s options are to: 1) Pay the invoice; 2) Discuss the matter with the attorney in an attempt to resolve any disputed amount of fees; 3) Institute fee arbitration; 4) Do nothing until the attorney gives notice of the client’s right to fee arbitration and/or institutes a lawsuit.

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  3. You haven't described anything unlawful in regards to your attorney's conduct. I'd review the retainer agreement then speak with your attorney about working something out.

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