Christopher P. Valle-Riestra
Attorney at Law

Sample Contingent Fee Agreement

This agreement between ____________________ ("client") and Christopher P. Valle-Riestra ("attorney") governs the terms on which attorney will provide legal services for client.

Scope of agreement: Attorney agrees to provide client legal services in connection with ____________________. Attorney does not hereby agree to represent anyone other than the client named above, or to provide any other services. If attorney is to provide any other services, including services on related matters arising out of this relationship, client and attorney will need to reach a separate agreement providing for an additional fee. Attorney does not hereby agree to represent client in any appeal. Any such work will require an additional agreement, providing for an additional fee, between client and attorney or other counsel of client's choosing.  Attorney does not hereby agree to provide services or advice on matters peripheral to the matter on which client has engaged attorney, including, for example, questions that may arise concerning the effect of the resolution of this matter on client's tax liability (particularly if client recovers money or anything else of value), or concerning insurance coverage. Such matters may be outside the fields in which attorney is willing to practice and render services. Attorney will not be obliged to provide services on such matters, and client will not look to attorney for advice on such matters, absent a further written agreement to that effect. Client acknowledges that tax and insurance coverage questions commonly arise, and acknowledges the importance of seeking qualified advice concerning such matters.

Fees: The fee in this matter will be a percentage of the amount recovered by client on the claim that is the subject of this agreement. The fee will be calculated by taking the gross recovery, deducting all costs of litigation, whether paid by client or attorney, and after reimbursing client and attorney out of the gross recovery for those costs, applying the percentage to the remainder. (The "gross recovery" will include the fair market value of any non-monetary recovery, for example, tangible property. The costs of litigation to be deducted from the gross recovery will not include any costs that client or any other lawyer for client may have incurred prior to hiring Christopher P. Valle-Riestra, or any costs, such as travel expenses, incurred by client rather than by attorney.)  The fee will be _____ percent of the amount recovered before filing a complaint commencing a lawsuit, _____percent of the amount recovered before the commencement of jury selection in a jury trial, or the commencement of opening statements in a bench trial, and _____ of the amount recovered thereafter. This fee is not set by law, but is negotiable between attorney and client. Attorney may, in his discretion, associate other lawyers within or outside his firm to assist in this matter, and agree to an equitable division of the fee. This will not increase the amount of the fee to be paid by client.

Client understands that if the court decrees that an adverse party should pay an attorney's fee in connection with litigation in which attorney represents client, that award will determine only the amount to be paid by the adverse party, and will not limit the amount otherwise payable out of client's recovery.  The amount of any such court-awarded fees will be included in the gross recovery for the purpose of calculating the percentage fee due under this agreement.  If the court decrees that any adverse party or such party's lawyer should pay attorney's fees by reason of that party's or lawyer's unjustified actions or tactics in the course of litigation, attorney shall be entitled to receive and retain such fees as compensation for his additional efforts required by those actions or tactics; such fees will not be included in the amount of gross recovery for the purpose of calculating the percentage fee due under this agreement.

There will be a minimum charge of $50 for any appointment missed by the client, or canceled by the client on less than four hours' notice. The charge may be greater (based on attorney's usual rates) if attorney must devote travel time or other time to the missed appointment.

Expenses:  Attorney will bill client for all out-of-pocket expenses incurred specifically relating to his work for client, including, for example, court filing fees, deposition transcript costs, and courier service (by staff or by outside contractors). Those amounts will be due whether or not client prevails in any lawsuit. Attorney will also bill client for the following costs:
    o Photocopies at 25 cents per page, which includes direct costs and a small allowance for staff time.
    o Facsimile machine transmissions, sent and received, at $2.50 per transmission, for up to 15 pages, plus any long distance telephone charges. Any transmission exceeding 15 pages will be subject to an additional charge of 20 cents for each page over 15.
    o Long distance telephone charges.
    o Automobile travel at the standard reimbursement rate permitted by federal tax law for initial business mileage in any year.
    o Postage.
    o For any envelope or package sent out weighing over one pound, a $15.00 courier service charge, if it is necessary to take the item to the post office; or alternatively, the cost of using an express service plus a $15.00 surcharge for the clerical time required for preparing the express service package. Attorney must now incur these expenses due to postal regulations (a gross overreaction, in attorney's opinion) allowing such items to be mailed only by handing them directly to a clerk at the post office.
    o For each certified or registered letter, out-of-pocket mailing costs plus a $15.00 surcharge, due to the substantial labor required for preparing such items.
    o Computerized legal research, such as Westlaw, at rates sufficient to recover attorney's costs.
    o A surcharge for any electronic court filing. This is now required or strongly encouraged in some courts. The surcharge will be in an amount sufficient to recover overhead, including special equipment and software required, and training time. Please note that in some cases client may realize offsetting savings because of reduced copying, mailing, and courier service costs.
    o If client requires rush work to be done after hours or on weekends, overtime pay to staff and other extraordinary expenses.

Attorney may adjust photocopying and facsimile transmission charges, and the other flat charges listed above, by giving 30 days notice to client; however, attorney will not increase those charges for 6 months from the date of this agreement. At attorney's option, attorney may forward bills from outside vendors directly to client for payment, or may pay those bills and obtain reimbursement from client.

Retainer: Client shall pay attorney an advance retainer in the amount of $__________, to secure a portion of anticipated costs.  Client must pay the retainer in full before attorney will commence providing services for or representing client.  Attorney may from time to time request client to pay additional retainers in amounts sufficient to cover additional portions of costs anticipated to be incurred in connection with steps in the litigation process, for example, a deposition or a motion. In particular, although such a request is entirely optional on attorney's part, attorney will ordinarily request that at least 60 days before the date set for trial, client pay a retainer in an amount sufficient to cover all costs estimated to be incurred in the trial. Client agrees to pay any such additional retainers forthwith upon request. Client further agrees that failure to make such payment promptly will be good cause for attorney's withdrawal from representing client, that attorney will in that event retain any rights he has to be paid a portion of any recovery in any pending proceeding, and that attorney will have all the other rights and remedies that he would have in the event that client failed to pay any billing when due, as set forth in the following paragraphs.

Billing:  Attorney will bill client approximately every 30 days for disbursements. Payment is due in full upon client's receipt of attorney's statement. Client may not elect to defer payment until the case in which attorney is representing client is settled. A late charge of .8 percent of the unpaid balance (including any previous late charges remaining unpaid) will be added to any bill not paid by the close of the following billing period. This periodic rate is the equivalent of an annual rate of 9.6 percent. This does not indicate any agreement on attorney's part to extended payments. In the absence of any other agreement regarding timely payments, if client does not pay any bill promptly, attorney may terminate legal services on client's behalf.

Any retainer held by attorney in trust for client's account will be credited monthly against amounts billed for that month, and acknowledged on the monthly statement (except to any extent a permanent credit balance is required by this agreement). Client hereby authorizes attorney to withdraw from the funds held in trust sums sufficient to pay disbursements as billed, and to pay attorney's fees when they become due.

Client agrees that client's failure to pay any bill promptly will be good cause for attorney's withdrawal from representing client in any pending proceeding. In that event, should attorney seek to withdraw from representing client, attorney will retain any rights he has, by law or by contract, to be paid a portion of any recovery in that proceeding, in client's favor or otherwise; and client agrees to pay on demand a reasonable attorney's fee for the professional time of attorney or any other lawyer acting on attorney's behalf in connection with any application to a court for leave to withdraw.

If litigation is initiated, please be aware that it is an extraordinarily expensive process for everyone concerned. The court systems, and in many cases alternative dispute resolution proceedings, as well, are inherently highly inefficient. Results are not predictable with confidence. Judges and juries can and do make wrong decisions. While such difficulties do not arise in every case, litigation presents many opportunities for parties to engage in deliberate delay, obstructionism, and intentionally multiplying expenses. Ill-advised tactics by an opposing party are beyond attorney's control. Judgments are frequently difficult or impossible to collect. Any decision to commence litigation, or if client is a defendant or cross-defendant, any defense of a claim, will be at client's own risk. Client recognizes the ever-present hazard that attorney's fees, costs, and other burdens of litigation may overshadow the scale of the underlying dispute.

Attorney agrees not to settle any claim on client's behalf without client's complete approval. Client in turn must keep attorney advised at all times of how attorney may reach client by telephone or letter; must appear on reasonable notice when required, for example at depositions and court appearances; and must comply promptly with all reasonable requests by attorney to assist in the preparation and presentation of the matters for which client hired attorney.

Client understands that attorney cannot promise or guarantee the nature of the outcome of the matter on which client is retaining attorney, and that any comments made by attorney on the probable outcome are expressions of opinion only.

Any estimate of costs that attorney may have given, or may give in the future, is not a guarantee. The actual costs may, and probably will, vary from any estimates given.

Client grants attorney a lien against any claim or cause of action client has retained attorney to assert on client's behalf, and against any recovery thereon. The lien secures the payment of any amounts due from client to attorney under this agreement, due as a result of any other services provided by attorney to client, or owing from client to attorney for any other reason. The lien will survive even if client has discharged attorney from providing further services. Client authorizes attorney, upon receipt of any funds subject to this lien, to deposit the funds in his trust account and to withdraw sums sufficient to pay the amounts due attorney. Client may seek the advice of an independent lawyer of client’s choice before signing this fee agreement and agreeing to this lien. Before signing this agreement, client may take the time necessary to seek such advice. By signing this agreement, client agrees that client has already had a reasonable opportunity to consult an independent lawyer. Whether or not client has chosen to consult an independent lawyer, client agrees that attorney will have a lien as stated in this agreement.

This is the complete agreement between attorney and client regarding payment of legal fees for services within the scope of this agreement. Any understanding contrary to the terms set forth herein must be acknowledged in writing.

Client acknowledges receipt of a copy of this agreement, signed by attorney and client.

Executed at _______________(city), _______________(state), on _____________, 20___.

Christopher P. Valle-Riestra

Executed at _______________(city), _______________(state), on _____________, 20___.


Note: This is only a sample showing terms typically contained in an agreement. It is not an offer to accept an engagement on the terms stated herein, a proposal to accept any case, or a proposal to open an attorney-client relationship with any person viewing this document. Terms are negotiable on both sides, and often vary from those set forth here. If you think that you may wish to hire me, please contact me with information on your case. 
Home page for Christopher P. Valle-Riestra, Attorney at Law
Revised August 7, 2007