Ethics Rules, Lawyers, and Flat Fee Agreements – Oh My!

Sep 25, 2018 | Blog

Recently, Megan wrote a guest post for CEBBlog to discuss the changes to California ethics rules affecting flat fee agreements. You can read the full post by clicking here. In this post, we’re going to touch on some of the highlights of the new fee agreement rules so that you have a better understanding of how they may affect you.


After you read this post, you may find that you need some help ensuring that your law office is in compliance. Zavieh Law provides telephonic consultations for lawyers. Get the help you need to protect yourself from an ethics complaint by scheduling your consultation.

November 1, 2018 Brings Big Changes to California Ethics Rules

Starting November 1, 2018, flat fee agreements will be treated differently under California’s Rules of Professional Conduct. Here’s what you need to know about the changes:

  • If you don’t complete the representation, you may need to refund at least part of the flat fee. Although that’s been the rule about unearned fees, it’s important to note that you may have to refund at least part of the flat fee even if your fee agreement states it is “earned upon receipt.”
  • Most lawyers will need a trust account even if you don’t use it every often.
  • There are a couple of things you can do to avoid placing the funds in trust. This requires making two specific disclosures that you can find in the full post on CEBBlog.

Modify Your Fee Agreements Before November 1, 2018

Lawyers, save yourself some hassle by modifying your flat fee agreements before the new rules go into effect. You should include:

  • The disclosures listed in Megan’s full post.
  • Specify how and when the fee is earned.
  • Open a trust account if you don’t already have one.
  • Familiarize yourself with the new rules.