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This scenario presents a number of alternatives: Each of these choices implicates a basic, but critical, issue: the point at which an attorney-client relationship commences with the person and the scope of your obligations and duties before you actually sign a fee agreement.Rather, you need some time to investigate the claim and decide if you want to take the case.Thus, you may wish to establish a limited relationship with the person while you are investigating the case, but not yet assuming the obligation to pursue the case in court.An implied attorney-client relationship can be created even though the client never signed a fee agreement. But the situation is not entirely skewed in favor of the putative client. the law requires more than an individual’s subjective, unspoken belief that the person with whom he is dealing, who happens to be a lawyer, has become fell entering a store and suffered a serious back injury.As one Massachusetts court put it: “an attorney-client relationship may be implied ‘when (1) a person seeks advice or assistance from an attorney, (2) the advice or assistance sought pertains to matters within the attorney’s professional competence, and (3) the attorney expressly or impliedly agrees to give or actually gives the desired advice or assistance.’” , 387 Mass. A few days after the fall, she called the lawyer’s office seeking legal advice.Address this issue in your initial letter to the client.
At this stage, it is important that you obtain all of the necessary facts before you express any opinion about the merits of the putative client’s case.There is nothing impermissible with a lawyer limiting the scope of his or her representation of a client.Nonetheless, it is extremely important that this be done in writing so that there is no confusion on the client’s part as to the extent of and scope of this limited representation.This letter could state: (1) that the lawyer is not agreeing to take the case, but is simply conducting an investigation; (2) that the lawyer is expecting and relying on the putative client to take certain steps, such as obtaining medical records or other information, by a certain date; (3) that the lawyer will provide a response within a specified period of time; (4) the costs or fees, if any, the putative client is expected to pay for the lawyer’s investigation; (5) the applicable statute of limitations or other bar dates or deadlines of which the person should be aware; and (6) the need to preserve all evidence related to the case.It would also be helpful to inform the person that, if he or she wants more of a commitment, they can always obtain other counsel. If there is no viable case presently, but one may develop in the future, do not leave the client with the impression that you are representing the client during this waiting period.Courts will tend not to imply an attorney-client relationship where the attorney would have a potential or actual conflict of interest if he was deemed to be representing the putative client. Limiting the Scope of Your Representation If, after talking to the putative client, you realize immediately that you have no intention of taking the case, you can clearly state this in a letter, often referred to as a “disengagement letter.” The letter should include statements that: (1) no attorney-client relationship has been formed, (2) the person should not rely on you to protect his or her interests, (3) the person should obtain legal advice elsewhere, and (4) the person must file any complaint before the statute of limitations expires.