One Way to Limit Client Disputes

Many client disputes arise from a disagreement about the nature and scope of the engagement. Most clients will assume their lawyer is doing more for them than a lawyer intends.

One way to limit disputes about what you were or were not hired to do is to clearly state, in writing, the scope of the engagement. Clarity is the goal.

Explicitly outlining the nature and scope of your services in the engagement letter may help you avoid or limit a claim of breaching a duty that you never intended or agreed to undertake.

When you clearly define the scope of the services to be rendered, you also help focus the discussion between you and your client as to the client’s goals in the representation. It can also help you in determining whether there are any potential conflicts of interest.

The engagement letter should describe what you will be handling very specifically. The more specific, the better. The engagement letter should also state what work you will not be handling (e.g., tax issues or handling an appeal in trial process).

Describing the scope of engagement in writing should provide you protection should some issue arise in the future, where the client contends you should have advised him or taken certain action, but you did not intend to cover that area.

You should avoid broad statements like “will provide general business advice” or “general legal advice.” Vagueness regarding the scope of your services will likely be construed against you. (e.g., New York, Florida, Georgia).

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