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High court approves LEO, amends Legal Aid Counsel Rule

The Supreme Court of Virginia on Jan. 6 approved a legal ethics opinion that questioned whether a lawyer representing a client on a flat or fixed fee agreement can provide for an alternative fee arrangement if the client ends the relationship without cause.

In Legal Ethics Opinion 1899, the court held that the fee agreement may include a conversion clause so long as the alternative fee is reasonable and made clear to the client at the start of the representation.

“A lawyer’s fee agreement with a client may include an alternative fee arrangement or ‘conversion clause’ if the client terminates the representation prematurely and without cause,” the court wrote. “However, an alternative fee or conversion provision must be reasonable and adequately explained to the client.”

The full text of LEO 1899 can be found here.

Also, Rule 1A:9 — Virginia Legal Aid Counsel — was amended. The rule allows non-Virginia lawyers to apply for a certificate as a Virginia Legal Aid Counsel to practice in Virginia when employed by a Virginia Licensed Legal Aid Society.

The full text of the amendment can be found here.