Rule 1.5. Fees.
(a) A lawyer shall not enter into an agreement for, charge, or collect an illegal or clearly excessive fee. The factors to be considered in determining the propriety of a fee include the following:
(1) whether the fee is fixed or contingent;
(2) the time and labor required, the novelty and difficulty of the questions involved, and the skill requisite to perform the legal service properly;
(3) the likelihood, if apparent to the client, that the acceptance of the particular employment will preclude other employment by the lawyer;
(4) the fee customarily charged in the locality for similar legal services;
(5) the amount involved and the results obtained;
(6) the time limitations imposed by the client or by the circumstances;
(7) the nature and length of the professional relationship with the client; and
(8) the experience, reputation, and ability of the lawyer or lawyers performing the services.
(b) When the lawyer has not regularly represented the client, the basis or rate of the fee shall be communicated to the client, in writing, before or within a reasonable time after commencing the representation.
(c) A fee may be contingent on the outcome of the matter for which the service is rendered, except in a matter in which a contingent fee is prohibited by paragraph (d) or other law. A contingent fee agreement shall be in writing and shall state the method by which the fee is to be determined, including the percentage or percentages that shall accrue to the lawyer in the event of settlement, trial or appeal, litigation and other expenses to be deducted from the recovery, and whether such expenses are to be deducted before or after the contingent fee is calculated. Upon conclusion of a contingent fee matter, the lawyer shall provide the client with a written statement stating the outcome of the matter and, if there is a recovery, showing the remittance to the client and the method of its determination.
(d) A lawyer shall not enter into an arrangement for, charge, or collect:
(1) any fee in a domestic relations matter, the payment or amount of which is contingent upon the securing of a divorce or upon the amount of alimony or support; or
(2) a contingent fee for representing a defendant in a criminal case.
(e) A lawyer shall not divide a fee for legal services with another lawyer who is not in the same firm unless:
(1) the client is advised of and does not object to the participation of all the lawyers involved, and
(2) the total fee of the lawyers is not illegal or clearly excessive for all legal services they rendered the client.
Basis or Rate of Fee
(1) When the lawyer has regularly represented a client, they ordinarily will have evolved an understanding concerning the basis or rate of the fee. In a new client-lawyer relationship, however, an understanding as to the fee should be promptly established. It is not necessary to recite all the factors that underlie the basis of the fee, but only those that are directly involved in its computation. It is sufficient, for example, to state that the basic rate is an hourly charge or a fixed amount or an estimated amount, or to identify the factors that may be taken into account in finally fixing the fee. When developments occur during the representation that render an earlier estimate substantially inaccurate, a revised estimate should be provided to the client. A written statement concerning the fee reduces the possibility of misunderstanding. Furnishing the client with a simple memorandum or a copy of the lawyers customary fee schedule is sufficient if the basis or rate of the fee is set forth.
Terms of Payment
(2) A lawyer may require advance payment of a fee, but is obliged to return any unearned portion. See Rule 1.16(d). A lawyer may accept property in payment for services, such as an ownership interest in an enterprise, providing this does not involve acquisition of a proprietary interest in the cause of action or subject matter of the litigation contrary to Rule 1.8[(j)](i). However, a fee paid in property instead of money may be subject to special scrutiny because it involves questions concerning both the value of the services and the lawyers special knowledge of the value of the property.
(3) An agreement may not be made whose terms might induce the lawyer improperly to curtail services for the client or perform them in a way contrary to the clients interest. For example, a lawyer should not enter into an agreement whereby services are to be provided only up to a stated amount when it is foreseeable that more extensive services probably will be required, unless the situation is adequately explained to the client. Otherwise, the client might have to bargain for further assistance in the midst of a proceeding or transaction. However, it is proper to define the extent of services in light of the clients ability to pay. A lawyer should not exploit a fee arrangement based primarily on hourly charges by using wasteful procedures. When there is doubt whether a contingent fee is consistent with the clients best interest, the lawyer should offer the client alternative bases for the fee and explain their implications. Applicable law may impose limitations on contingent fees, such as a ceiling on the percentage.
Division of Fee
(4) A division of fee is a single billing to a client covering the fee of two or more lawyers who are not in the same firm. A division of fee facilitates association of more than one lawyer in a matter in which neither alone could serve the client as well, and most often is used when the fee is contingent and the division is between a referring lawyer and a trial specialist. Paragraph (e) permits the lawyers to divide a fee if the total fee is not illegal or excessive and the client is advised and does not object. It does not require disclosure to the client of the share that each lawyer is to receive.
Successor Counsel in Contingency Fee Matters
(5) Unlike the situation in (4), which addresses division of fee between lawyers from different firms who are simultaneously representing a client, there may arise a situation where a client enters a contingent fee agreement with one lawyer (predecessor counsel), terminates that lawyers services without cause, and enters a new contingent fee agreement with a different lawyer (successor counsel). In such a situation, and pursuant to a lawyers duties as set forth in paragraphs (b) and (c), successor counsel must notify the client, in writing, that some portion of the fee may be due to or claimed by predecessor counsel for services performed prior to the termination, and should discuss with the client the effect of that claim on successor counsels proposed fee agreement. If successor counsel will be involved in negotiating fees with predecessor counsel on the clients behalf, successor counsel should evaluate whether the circumstances give rise to a conflict of interest with the client and, if so, must obtain appropriate informed consent to the conflict as set forth in Rule 1.7. If a dispute arises regarding distribution of the recovery, successor counsel must hold the disputed portion of the funds in trust pending resolution, in accordance with Rule 1.15(f). See ABA Formal Opinion 487 (June 18, 2019) (relating to successive contingent fee agreements). While part II.A of Formal Opinion 487 would require the clients written informed consent, Rule 1.7 does not require a writing. However, if informed consent is deemed necessary under the circumstances, written consent may benefit both the client and successor counsel for the reasons set forth in Explanatory Comment (20) to Rule 1.7.
Disputes over Fees
(6) If a procedure has been established for resolution of fee disputes, such as an arbitration or mediation procedure established by the bar, the lawyer should conscientiously consider submitting to it. Law may prescribe a procedure for determining a lawyers fee, for example, in representation of an executor or administrator, a class or a person entitled to a reasonable fee as part of the measure of damages. The lawyer entitled to such a fee and a lawyer representing another party concerned with the fee should comply with the prescribed procedure.
(7) It is Disciplinary Board policy that allegations of excessive fees charged are initially referred to Fee Dispute Committees for resolution.
The provisions of this Rule 1.5 amended November 25, 2020, effective immediately, 50 Pa.B. 6993. Immediately preceding text appears at serial pages (369508) and (397439) to (397440).
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