If you’ve read me long enough, you know that I’m a stickler for compliance with ethics rules. Do I like all of the rules we have to follow? Not at all. But rules are rules and if you don’t like them, then you don’t break them, but change them.
Of course, sometimes, you don’t even have to go that far because it’s possible, within the bounds of existing rules to get where you want to go.
Like in the case of retainer agreements. I’ve just completed a 70 page e-book on the Art, Science and Ethics of the 21st Century Retainer which will be available for sale shortly, either by itself or along with a recorded webinar (or another live one). One of my recommendations is that lawyers should figure out ways to shorten your retainer agreement to accommodate 21st century attention spans (or lack thereof) a simple enough concept. Yet many times, I’ll hear push back from lawyers who claim that bar rules prevent them from taking anything out of their agreements or simplifying them further.
Ever the skeptic, I decided to put those arguments to the test. I pulled a copy of the California sample agreement from the website and spent about 5 minutes on a rough cut, quick and dirty edit. In that time alone, I was able to cut the agreement from 9 pages to 2 and reduce the readability score on Read-able.com from 11th grade to 9th grade, and push the Flesch Kincaid score from the low 50s to low 60s- and into a more readable range. Again, this was just a proof of concept hack job; with a little more time, I’m certain that I could have improved further. Also, I was hesitant to remove the provisions regarding liens on settlement; I don’t have those in my retainer agreement, but since I don’t practice in California, I wasn’t sure how critical they are to the agreement.
I’ve included my quick and dirty mark up here – the book will have the full before and after.
Don’t get me wrong – most of the templates at the bar sites are a good start for retainer agreements. But they’re intended for a general audience and won’t always provide the right fit for the clients you serve. For that, you probably need a re-write to get it right.
Remember – Friday is where we discuss future of law issues. If you have a post on the future of law, please submit it to Carolyn Elefant, firstname.lastname@example.org