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If repayment of costs aren't mentioned in a retainer agreement, can a lawyer charge them in addition to the 40% contingency fee?

Philadelphia, PA |

Our retainer agreement states a 40% contingency fee, under which it states that the firm will advance out of pocket expenses. No other information is in the agreement that pertains to the repayment of the expenses in addition to the 40% contingency. Our interpretation was that the repayment of fees was included in the 40%, their interpretation was that the fees are paid in addition to the 40%. Is it possible to hold us to something that isn't stated in the agreement, or in their opinion - it's "implyed"? Can you imply something in a legally binding document? I thought it was to be clearly stated.

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Attorney answers 3


The agreement should be clear. However, the statement that out of pocket expenses would be advanced implies that they are "advanced" and will need to be reimbursed. If you want, you can dispute the fees with the PA Bar or the Philadelphia Bar Association. They both have lawyer fee dispute procedures.

This response does not create an attorney-client relationship and is not intended to provide legal advice for your specific situation.


While it is normal to have costs reimbursed in addition to the contingency percentage, the agreement should spell it out. Question them, and suggest that you will need to take it to the bar association if it is not reasonably resolved.

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You really need to quote all relevant language in the fee agreement before a lawyer can give an opinion as to how the language should be interpreted. Conclusions can be "implied" from the language of a contract. If you can fit all relevant language from the fee agreement into an question, it might be worth re-posting this question.

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