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Should there be a written agreement even when the attorney is pro bono?

Haverhill, MA |

A lawyer agreed to represent me pro bono, but we have no written agreement. I feel uncomfortable with this, especially when there is the chance that some money could be forthcoming. Should there be some kind of agreement regarding our relationship? Or when an attorney represents a client without charge is it usual to not have any written agreement? If I would feel more comfortable having an agreement how could I present this request?

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Attorney answers 5

Best Answer
Posted

Yes. There should definitely be an agreement that sets out the terms of the representation, including that it is on a pro bono basis. I would suggest that you contact your attorney and request a formal agreement that you both sign.

Gary S. Sinclair is an attorney licensed to practice in Massachusetts. If you wish to contact me or any other attorney on AVVO, just click on the attorney's name and you will find contact information. All of my answers are based on Massachusetts law or a simple reading of the law in your jurisdiction. All answers are for educational purposes and no attorney-client relationship is formed by providing an answer to your question. The information provided should NOT be relied upon for making legal decisions. You will be best served by hiring an attorney in your area who specializes in the field of law pertinent to your question.

Asker

Posted

Instinctively I had felt there should be a written agreement. The problem is what to now do. if I had money I would seek another attorney for there are other problems. But the reality is that I do not have money, and that now I need continue with him. How can I present the request for an agreement in such a way that would make sense to him? If he says that there is no need, since he has agreed to represent me pro bono, what would be the best way to request it? How unusual is it to have no agreement? Thank you.

Gary S. Sinclair

Gary S. Sinclair

Posted

Your instincts are correct. Whereas some representations in the past may have been sealed with a handshake, Attorney Snell correctly points out that the Board of Bar Overseers now requires the terms of representation to be set out in writing, even with pro bono representation. Such an agreement also protects the attorney in that it establishes parameters around the extent of representation. If I were you, I would tell your lawyer that you would be more comfortable with a written agreement and that you understand it is required in all attorney-client relationships. Good luck!

Posted

Yes it's always a good idea to reduce your agreement to writing in case of a later conflict or dispute.

The foregoing answer does not establish an attorney client relationship, is not confidential, and should not be relied upon in place of an actual consultation with an attorney. Attorney Samiotes is licensed to practice in Massachusetts, the Federal District Court of Massachusetts, and the Court of International Trade. Most initial consultations are free. Further information is available on my profile and at http://www.bjgalaw.com/.

Posted

I would add that in addition to it being a good idea, it is now a BBO requirement that all relationships be documented with an engagement letter. Let your attorney know that you feel it is important and if he is still reluctant, I would try to see if someone else might be able to assist you.

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Asker

Posted

What is "BBO"?

Brian C. Snell

Brian C. Snell

Posted

The board of bar overseers. They regulate Massachusetts attorneys.

Posted

absolutely

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Posted

Yes, there should be an agreement. Recent changes in Massachusetts law require a written fee agreement.

Christopher Vaughn-Martel is a Massachusetts lawyer with the firm of Vaughn-Martel Law in Boston, Massachusetts. All answers are based on Massachusetts law and the limited facts presented by the questioner. All answers are provided to the general public for educational purposes only and no attorney-client relationship is formed by providing an answer to a question. To schedule a consultation with a lawyer, and obtain advice and review of your specific legal issue, please call us today at 617-357-4898 or visit us at www.vaughnmartel.com.