What is an Agreement for Legal Services?
An Agreement for Legal Services is a contract that is signed when a law firm lands a client.
There is a nice sample from the Louisiana Bar Association, providing aid for new professionals to start their careers.
Check the sample below:
The sample under the scope of Hourly Fees, i.e. payments due per hour of service.
Let's talk about very interesting terms found by the reading of this sample. Some terms are very important for the practice of the law.
Scope of Representation - A mandatory clause that must describe the activities to be performed by the lawyer, basically the reason why he is to be hired.
Hourly Fee for Billable Time - An hourly fee is the price of the hour of work. That is not very common in Brazil as lawyers tend to prefer charging a fee for every claim or work they perform, not counting the hours of their work. Well, that is a different culture. Billable time is every time a lawyer is able to bill the agreed hourly fee, really well described in the sample.
Paraprofessionals - They are everyone else that shall be assisting the lawyer with his work. They are also paid by the hour, just not the same amount, normally a much lower amount than the one received by the lawyer.
Contingent Fee - It is a different type of charge for a legal service, this one is quite common in Brazil. In many occasions, the client does not have money upfront to pay for the legal services, but the lawyer, after analyzing the case, may propose a contingent fee that is normally a percentage of the client's earnings if he or she wins the case.
Advance Deposit - The client will have to advance some money in order to secure the costs paid by the lawyer in the course of the case.
Besides the general clauses aforementioned this particular Agreement for Legal Services provides for dispute resolution if disagreements between the lawyer and the client arise.
There are many provisions about this matter and most of then lead to alternative dispute resolutions, particularly arbitration.
The Louisiana State Bar Association has a program for Arbitration of Legal Fee Dispute. Besides, All Other Disputes, as it is stated in the contract, shall be resolved in the American Arbitration Association "AAA", also in New Orleans, Louisiana.
There are many samples of Agreement for Legal Services Online, some with retainer agreements, contingency fees, and Hourly Fees, the scope of each one is a little different. You shall find the language used to your own drafting.