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Consumer Organization HALT Praises PA Fee Writing Rule

The consumer advocacy organization HALT (www.halt.org) has been very critical of the legal profession at large, and of Pennsylvania's disciplinary system in particular. The Commonwealth's system received some praise from HALT in a recent column, however. In her column "Hiring a Lawyer? Get It In Writing," HALT's Associate Counsel Suzanne M. Blonder criticized Rule 1.5(b) of the ABA Model Rules of Professional Responsibility for not requiring that lawyers give their clients written statements of the basis of their fees, but noted, "New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Arizona and Montana followed our recommendations by unambiguously requiring their attorneys to put fee agreements on paper."

Pennsylvania's version of Rule 1.5(b) has required that fee arrangements be put in writing since its adoption effective April 1, 1988, making Pennsylvania one of the first states in the nation to offer clients this protection. This is one of several respects in which the requirements of the Pennsylvania rules are more rigorous than the national standard. Contingent fees must be documented by a written agreement signed by the client under both the national standard and Pennsylvania rule.