Risk Update

Engaging on Engagement Letters (Part 1)

The Engagement Letter Defeat’s Legal Malpractice Claim” —

  • “An engagement letter can be very important in that it sets limits on the attorney-client relationship. A good engagement letter defines what the lawyer will do and what the lawyer will not do. In the case captioned, Attallah v. Milbank Tweed, Hadley & McCloy, 168 A.D.3d 1026 (2019), 93 N.Y.S.3d 353, the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of New York affirmed the dismissal of a legal malpractice case based on the precise terms of the engagement letter.”
  • “The law firm agreed to represent Attallah on a pro bono basis to investigate whether or not he could be reinstated by a school that had expelled him. The engagement letter made it clear that the law firm’s engagement did not include litigation with the professional school.”
  • “The professional school did not reconsider its decision to expel the plaintiff. The law firm refused to commence litigation or take further action. Plaintiff sued for legal malpractice (and other causes of action) but his case was dismissed because the engagement letter limited the terms of the engagement.”

For a good “head to tail” exploration of a prudent engagement letter, see: “Engagement Letters for Litigators.

And, for an interesting example, we have a PDF surfaced by law.com, as part of a larger story tracking firm billing rates — an engagement letter from Jones Day representing a client before the Supreme Court in a pro bono matter.