Protecting Your Law Practice: The Art of the Non-Engagement Letter

Oct 26, 2017 | Blog, California State Bar Defense, Disciplinary Hearings, Professional Conduct for Lawyers, State Bar Defense

Your bottom line revolves around your ability to assess cases and to convince potential clients to hire you. Yet, with the practice of law there is the inherent risk of ethical complaints being filed against you. How can you protect your law practice from complaints if you inform someone that you do not plan to represent someone? By making sure that you issue a non-engagement letter.

How a Non-Engagement Letter Protects Your Law Practice

When a law practice decides to take on a client, an engagement letter is sent out. The purpose of this letter is to affirm with the new client that the law practices has taken the case and will represent them. In short, it’s a short confirmation that both the client and the practice are on the same page.

A non-engagement letter protects a law practice when it does not believe that a case has merit or will be worth the time and expense of pursuing a legal claim. It reminds the person that the attorney spoke with that the practice decided not to take the case and that no attorney-client relationship was created.

Some attorneys don’t believe that a non-engagement letter is necessary in their law practice, but it is. Without one, you’re presuming that you are able to read the mind of the person who came to you. You may believe that you were perfectly clear that you’re not taking the case while they believe that the very fact that you agreed to the consultation meant that you were there new attorney.

Evidence for a Potential Complaint Against Your Law Practice

Because it is possible that someone could misunderstand your initial consultation as your consent to represent them, a non-engagement letter is crucial. If someone believes that you agreed to represent them although you believe that you were clear that you declined the case, a non-engagement letter sent to that person acts as evidence if the person files a complaint against your law practice.

Where Can You Find Sample Non-Engagement Letters?

Sometimes, lawyers struggle when it comes to formulating an effective non-engagement letter or template for their law practice. It can be difficult to figure out where to start. Lawyers should check with their state bar association for non-engagement templates that they can use. The best way for lawyers to protect their practices is to make sending non-engagement letters part of their business management routine.

Were You Accused of Violating Professional Conduct Standards?

If you’re an attorney facing an ethics complaint, you should consider your options. These violations can be extremely serious can can result in disbarment. There are several factors that must be addressed to determine whether it is in your best interest to represent yourself, choose limited scope representation, or to hire an attorney who focuses on defenses for these matters. If you’re a licensed California attorney accused of violating professional conduct standards, read Megan Zavieh’s The Playbook – The California Bar Discipline System Practice Guide. With this guide, you’ll be given the information you need to determine if it is in your best interest to represent yourself or if you should hire a defense attorney.

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