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Home > Actions on Rule Changes and Legal Ethics Opinions > LEO 1878 regarding a successor lawyer’s duties in a contingent fee matter.

Adopted | LEO 1878 regarding a successor lawyer’s duties in a contingent fee matter. Approved by the Supreme Court of Virginia May 17, 2021. Effective immediately.

Update 5/17/21:

On May 17, 2021, the Supreme Court of Virginia amended Legal Ethics Opinion No. 1878, stating a successor lawyer must charge a reasonable fee and must adequately explain said fee to the client. The amendment is effective immediately.

View the Court's Order


Update 3/8/21:
The VSB Council approved proposed LEO 1878 by a vote of 57 to 0 (1 abstention) on February 27, 2021. LEO 1878 is pending consideration by the Supreme Court of Virginia. 

View the petition to the Court (pdf)

View LEO 1878 appendix to the petition to the Court (pdf)


The Standing Committee on Legal Ethics approved proposed LEO 1878 at its meeting on December 12, 2019.


The Standing Committee on Legal Ethics will consider the amendments at its October 20 meeting.


Pursuant to Part 6, § IV, ¶ 10-2(C) of the Rules of the Supreme Court of Virginia, the Virginia State Bar’s Standing Committee on Legal Ethics is seeking public comment on proposed advisory Legal Ethics Opinion 1878, Successor Lawyer’s Duties to Include in a Written Engagement Agreement Provisions Relating to Predecessor Counsel’s Quantum Meruit Legal Fee Claim in a Contingent Fee Matter.

This proposed opinion generally addresses the ethical duties of an attorney who assumes representation of a client in a contingent fee matter when predecessor counsel may have a claim against the client or a lien for legal fees earned on a quantum meruit basis against the proceeds of a recovery.

In this proposed opinion, the committee concluded that successor counsel in a contingent fee matter must charge a reasonable fee and must adequately explain her fee to the client. If the client, predecessor counsel, and successor counsel cannot agree in advance of successor counsel’s engagement how predecessor counsel’s fee will be calculated, then successor counsel should address in her written contingent fee agreement the client’s potential obligation to pay fees to discharged counsel, as well as that successor counsel’s fees might need to be adjusted in view of predecessor counsel’s quantum meruit lien, so as to ensure that successor counsel’s fee is reasonable using the factors identified in Rule 1.5(a). Successor counsel may represent the client in negotiations and litigation involving the predecessor counsel’s claim of lien, provided that there is no conflict under Rule 1.7(a)(2) or the client gives informed consent to a potential conflict under Rule 1.7(b).

View proposed LEO 1878 (pdf)
 

Inspection and Comment

The proposed advisory opinion may be inspected above or at the office of the Virginia State Bar, 1111 East Main Street, Suite 700, Richmond, Virginia 23219, between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, excluding holidays. Copies of the proposed advisory opinion can be obtained from the offices of the Virginia State Bar by contacting the Office of Ethics Counsel at 804-775-0557.

Any individual, business, or other entity may file or submit written comments in support of or in opposition to the proposed opinion with Karen A. Gould, Executive Director of the Virginia State Bar, not later than March 20, 2020. Comments may be submitted via email to publiccomment@vsb.org.

 

posted: December 16, 2019

Updated: May 17, 2021