TERMS OF ENGAGEMENT
(Including Fee Arbitration Agreement)
These terms are an integral part of the services provided to you and apply to all services provided by Tousley Brain Stephens PLLC (“TBS”). Please read them carefully.
- Charges for Legal Services. Our fees for legal services are based primarily on hourly rates for the actual time spent by attorneys, legal assistants, or other staff members working on your matter, recorded in tenths of an hour with a two-tenths minimum. Unless specifically agreed in writing in advance of commencing work, our fees are not contingent on the outcome of your legal matter. Occasionally, there may be an additional charge where our efforts are clearly unusual in terms of time restraints imposed on us, the novelty and difficulty of the issues involved, the efficiency of the work completed, or the results obtained. From time to time, we adjust our hourly rates and thus the hourly rates charged to you may change during the course of our representation.
- Charges for Expenses. We charge for conference calls, courier and other communication services, copies, staff overtime when required by client deadlines, online legal research, court filing fees, deposition or transcript fees, consultants or expert witnesses, messengers, travel expenses, and other out-of-pocket costs incurred on your behalf. For flights of 4 hours or more, attorneys may opt to fly business or first class to provide the space necessary to actively work on your case. Although all such expenses are your direct responsibility, TBS may advance payment of such expenses if your account with us is current. We may also forward invoices to you for direct payment.
- Fee Estimates. Any estimate of our charges is only our best estimate at the time the estimate is given and is not a cap or limit on our fees. Because legal representation is affected by factors outside our control, it is difficult to estimate total charges with any certainty. Accordingly, our fees are based on the actual amount of time spent and costs incurred, rather than on the estimate, unless specifically agreed otherwise in writing in advance.
- Flat Fee Services. For certain well-defined services, we may charge a flat fee. All flat fee arrangements – including the amount of the flat fee, the specific services to be provided for that fee and when the fee is payable – will be specifically stated in writing in advance of starting work. Upon our receipt of any portion of a flat fee, the funds are the property of TBS and will not be placed in a trust account. The fact that you have paid a flat fee in advance does not affect your right to terminate the client-lawyer relationship. If our relationship is terminated before the agreed upon legal services have been completed, you may or may not have a right to a refund of a portion of the fee.
- Billing Statements. Each month, we will send you a billing statement that includes a brief description of work done since the date of the last billing statement, the date such work was performed, by whom it was performed, and the charges for such work. The billing statement will also show charges for expenses and advances since the last statement, any payments received or credits given since the last statement, any finance charges and the total balance due.
- Payment Dates & Interest. Payment on our billing statements is due upon receipt. An interest charge of 1% per month will be applied to overdue balances. If you fail to keep your account current, we reserve the right to withdraw from representing you. Your payments should be made payable to Tousley Brain Stephens PLLC (Taxpayer ID: 91-1730595) and mailed to Tousley Brain Stephens PLLC, Attn: Accounting Dept., 1200 Fifth Avenue, Suite 1700, Seattle, WA 98101-3147. If you wish to pay by credit card, please make arrangement in advance. We reserve the right to add a credit card processing fee that reasonably reflects the actual cost incurred by the firm in processing any credit card transaction.
- Advance Fee Deposit/Trial Deposit. You may be required to provide an advance fee deposit and/or a trial deposit (collectively “fee deposit”) as a condition of our engagement on a matter. The amount of any fee deposit will be stated in our engagement letter or in another written agreement. Unless stated otherwise in such writing, you hereby authorize TBS to withdraw from the fee deposit the amount necessary to pay each of your statements fifteen (15) days after the date thereof. Questions, disagreements or concerns regarding each statement must be received within this 15-day period or they will be deemed waived and released. At the conclusion of our engagement and payment of all outstanding charges, any remaining balance on the fee deposit will be returned to you.
- Billing Questions. We make every effort to prevent errors in our invoices and statements, to be fair in our billing practices and to be efficient in the use of our time. If you have questions or comments concerning one of our statements, or if you experience difficultyin making a payment, we are available to help you promptly with any billing or payment questions. Please contact our Billing Specialist, Joy Yabanci, at 206-682-5600 with your questions.
- Insurance Coverage. You may have insurance policies that may cover, among other things, reimbursement of attorneys’ fees and costs. Unless agreed in writing, our engagement does not include advising you as to any insurance coverage. If coverage is potentially available your insurance company must be notified as soon as possible. We can only advise you on the availability of insurance coverage if you expressly and timely request that we do so, we do not have a conflict of interest, and we are engaged to undertake such additional work. You will need to furnish us copies of all relevant insurance policies and related documents. Regardless whether, when, and to what the extent insurance coverage may be available to reimburse all or a portion of our fees and costs, you nevertheless remain primarily obligated for amounts owed us, including any late charges that accrue during any delay in payment by others.
- Legal Service Provider. We provide strictly legal services. You are not relying on us for any services other than legal services, and we are specifically not providing any business, investment, insurance, tax or accounting advice or any investigation of the character or credit of persons with whom you may be dealing.
- Cooperation/Reliance on Accurate Information. To enable us to represent you effectively, you will cooperate fully with us in your matter(s). You and your agents will fully and accurately disclose to us all facts and documents that may be relevant to a matter we undertake or which we may otherwise request. This information is critical to our ability to provide you legal advice.
- Attorney-Client Privilege. Your confidential communications with us about legal issues are subject to the attorney-client privilege. Confidential information, therefore, can be kept from the world at large, except for situations involving crime, fraud and other situations where a court can compel disclosure. The attorney-client privilege that cloaks much of our communication is sometimes waived if you discuss the substance of our communications with outside parties, and in a situation involving joint representation, may be waived by one client even without the consent of others. Consequently, please do not discuss our communications with outside parties. If you have any questions about this, please contact me.
- Email Communications. Many of our legal professionals receive hundreds of email messages per day. Although email is an efficient method for many communications, it can also be delayed in transit or otherwise missed (e.g., blocked by our anti-spam software). You cannot assume that each email message copied or sent to one of our legal professionals was actually opened and read by him or her unless you receive a non-automated reply message indicating that he or she read the substance of your message. Time for reading and responding to email is charged as part of our Legal Services.
- Closing Representation. Representation on specific matters will be considered closed and representation terminated when there has been no new time or work invoiced for a period of twelve (12) months. If you desire to keep a matter open for longer than this period, please make specific arrangements with us. After a matter is closed, your file will be handled pursuant to our document retention policy as outlined in Section 15.
- Document Retention. You are responsible for the execution, retention and safekeeping of all documents we prepare for you or which you sign. During our representation, we may receive and hold a large number of documents, such as historic documents, correspondence, financial records, tax records, bank records, deeds, photographs and recorded documents. When we close your file, it is our policy to make available for your retrieval any original documents you have provided to us and any other documents in your file. The contents of your file will either be returned to you at your expense, if you so instruct, or will be removed and destroyed. Our own files relating to your matter will be retained by us at our discretion. Our files include firm administrative records, time and expense reports, credit and accounting records and internal lawyers’ work product such as drafts, notes and research. We reserve the right, without further notice, to destroy or otherwise dispose of any documents or materials retained by us in a reasonable time after termination of representation on a matter.
- Termination. If our representation is terminated, all charges (including for fees and costs) previously incurred must immediately be paid in full or arrangements must be made to provide security for said charges, with arrangements made to pay the balance owing within a reasonable period of time, not to exceed 60 days. This provision relates to the financial arrangements between the parties and nothing in these Terms of Engagement or our engagement shall be construed to extend the statute of limitations regarding any alleged failure to provide adequate legal services beyond the three-year statute of limitations applicable to tort actions.
- Lien. Pursuant to Revised Code of Washington 60.40.010, and the terms of this agreement, you hereby give and grant to TBS a lien on any and all causes of action, proceeds and judgments for sums due to us for fees, costs and disbursements. You hereby authorize TBS to receive any monies or other property to which you are entitled, and this agreement shall operate as an assignment to us to the extent of any obligations to us of any money, property, judgment or the proceeds thereof, to which you may be entitled. The lien created by the aforementioned statute attaches to the papers in our possession, money in our hands and/or in an adverse party’s hands, and any judgment.
- Fee Arbitration. Any disputes relating to this agreement or the amount of legal fees related thereto, will be submitted to arbitration in front of a single arbitrator with at least 10 years experience arbitrating fee disputes selected from Judicial Dispute Resolution LLC (“JDR”) and who is located in Seattle, Washington. If we cannot agree on an arbitrator, one shall be selected by JDR. The arbitration shall be conducted pursuant to JDR’s arbitration rules. Either you or TBS may request arbitration. In such an event, each side agrees to pay half of the arbitration fees/costs unless the arbitrator rules otherwise. Both parties agree to be bound by the results of the arbitration. If JDR fails to exercise jurisdiction for any reason over any disputes between the parties, King County Superior Court shall have exclusive jurisdiction over them, shall apply Washington law, and shall be the venue of any action related to the parties’ relationship.