After reading this post at the Public Citizens Law & Policy Blog (H/T Legal Blogwatch) about simplicity guru Alan Siegel’s efforts to cleanse the gobbledygook from consumer agreements, my first thought was that if Siegel succeeds, then Minneapolis, Minnesota solo lawyer and bloggerGraham Martinwill have to find another topic to replace his Fine Print Friday feature, which parses and analyzes the fine print in consumer services agreements. But my second thought was why can’t we lawyers design our retainer letters for consumers just as Siegel has done in his example?
To be fair, many lawyers’ retainers letters are fairly uncomplicated – really too much so, if you look at some of the bar-sanctioned agreements at Soloformania. Others, like this one are more complex, though the terms are still relatively understandable. But none of these retainer agreements (my own included, and I will post some of those shortly) are particularly attractive: they look like something from a lawyer (which of course, they are!)
But what if we lawyers could take some time and design a retainer agreement like that designed by Siegel? Seems to me that consumers would find it more inviting, and less intimidating and as such, we could get off on the right foot in our relationship.
At the same time, would a simple document undercut our authority? Might consumers regard our services as less serious because our retainer letter didn’t come on fancy letter-head, with the formality of legalese? Or is this entire subject irrelevant anyway, because, as Enricho Schaefer has said, formal retainer agreements are outdated. Please share your thoughts below.