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will be construed against the drafter—
which almost always is the lawyer.
A pair of recent Washington deci-
sions again offer examples.
In Layson’s Restorations, Inc. v. Ster-
bick, 2016 WL 3000263 (W.D. Wash.
May 25, 2016), a client successfully
challenged a lawyer who attempted to
collect fees that were calculated at a
rate higher than the fee agreement. Law
firms are not prohibited from changing
their fees—if that mechanism is built
into the fee agreement. But, if a firm
does not reserve this ability up front,
it will be confronted with a very basic
consumer concept: “A deal is a deal.”
By contrast, in Lauer v. Longev-
ity Medical Clinic PLLC, 2016 WL
2595122 (W.D. Wash. May 4, 2016),
the court upheld the fees incurred
against a client challenge—finding
that the fees were consistent with the
fee agreement and the fee agreement
To sum up: Although engagement
agreements are not an insurance policy,
systematically using a template that
clearly outlines the key aspects of an engagement will lower predictable risk. NWL
MARK J. FUCILE of Fucile
& Reising LLP handles
bility, regulatory, and
attorney-client privilege matters for
lawyers, law firms, and legal depart-
ments throughout the Northwest. He
has chaired the Washington State
Bar Association (WSBA) Committee
on Professional Ethics and is a past
member of the Oregon State Bar
(OSB) Legal Ethics Committee. He is
a co-editor of the Law of Lawyering in
Washington and the Washington Legal
Ethics Deskbook, both published by the
WSBA, and the Ethical Oregon Lawyer,
published by the OSB. He also teaches
legal ethics as an adjunct for the Uni-
versity of Oregon School of Law at its
Portland campus. He can be reached
at 503-224-4895 and Mark@frllp.com.
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