For couples, the path to getting engaged is pretty clear. After the traditional courting period, the question is popped, the answer is (hopefully) yes… and usually a ring is given. There’s not a lot of confusion about whether the happy couple is or is not engaged (unless, of course, you happen to have seen the season finale of The Big Bang Theory).
For lawyers and clients, the path is equally clear, albeit with less jewelry. After the traditional courting period, the question is popped, the answer is (hopefully) yes … and the lawyer sends out an engagement letter. That’s right, an engagement letter. Because unlike our newlyweds to be, there CAN be confusion — about the identity of the client, the scope of the representation, the financial terms, and whether any waiver is needed (among many others).
By ensuring at the outset that you have an engagement letter that accurately reflects the terms of the representation, you ensure that your and your client’s expectations are aligned. And you also avoid the possible consequences that can arise in the absence of such a letter, including billing disputes, forfeiture of fees, and disqualification (among many others).
Trust us, the first step to a long and fruitful relationship is having a clear engagement letter. That and not inviting Sheldon Cooper to the bachelor party.