Drafting Client Engagement Agreements: Legal Ethics Considerations for Counsel

Leveraging the Agreement to Defend Against Disciplinary Actions and Malpractice Claims

Recording of a 90-minute CLE webinar with Q&A

Conducted on Thursday, June 8, 2017
Recorded event now available

This CLE webinar will provide attorneys with guidance on avoiding legal ethics missteps when drafting client engagement agreements and when leveraging them to defend against disciplinary actions and malpractice claims. The panel will discuss specific ethical rules governing the use of client engagement agreements.


An effective tool for attorneys to reduce client complaints, grievances and malpractice claims is a well-structured client engagement agreement that is implemented within ethical rules and constraints.

In drafting such agreements, counsel must navigate a complex maze of ethical rules and opinions that govern acceptable and unacceptable provisions. In addition to complying with ethical rules, counsel must be aware of lessons from recent malpractice claims and disciplinary actions when formulating the parameters of the agreement.

Counsel must also understand the role that agreements have played in defending complaints by clients made to a state bar—and in the worst case scenario, when a malpractice lawsuit is filed.

Listen as our authoritative panel reviews, in detail, the legal and ethical constraints regarding the terms of an engagement agreement to include discussions on client identification, scope, file retention and more. Additionally, attendees will benefit from an analysis of how these agreements can be used to defend against malpractice claims and disciplinary proceedings.


  1. Important provisions
    1. Client identification
    2. Scope of engagement
    3. Terms of payment
    4. Staffing concerns
    5. Conflicts
    6. File and documentation retention
  2. Defending disciplinary proceedings
  3. Defending malpractice claims


The panel will review these and other key issues:

  • Understanding which ethical rules apply when drafting client engagement agreements
  • Determining the types of provisions to include in engagement agreements and the impact of legal ethics rules
  • Leveraging the use of client engagement agreements to mitigate or resolve client complaints, grievances, disciplinary proceedings and malpractice claims
  • Drafting client agreements to proactively avoid client complaints and using lessons from others’ mistakes


A. Neil Hartzell, Shareholder
LeClairRyan, Boston

Mr. Hartzell has extensive experience in a broad range of matters, representing both plaintiffs and defendants in complex civil litigation including commercial disputes, real estate, securities litigation and investigations, directors and officers, business torts, trade secrets, IP, insurance coverage, class actions, contract actions, aviation, and workplace and employment related matters.

Megan Zavieh, Atty
Zavieh Law, Alpharetta, Ga.

Ms. Zavieh focuses exclusively on attorney ethics, providing full and limited scope representation to attorneys facing State Bar disciplinary action, primarily in California. She provides guidance to practicing attorneys on questions of legal ethics, and speaking on ethics issues at conferences and events. She provides full scope representation and associated counsel assistance at various stages of the disciplinary process.  


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Ethics Credits

An excellent opportunity to earn ETHICS CLE credits in states where webinars are accredited.  Note: Strafford cannot guarantee that Virginia will approve ethics credits for this event.

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Corporate Law Advisory Board

Stuart M. Altman

Director, Corporate Legal Investigations


Mark H. Hain

General Counsel

Assurance America

Michael Hermsen


Mayer Brown

Matthew A. Karlyn


Foley & Lardner

Michael J. Missal

Inspector General

Department of Veterans Affairs

G. Thomas Stromberg


Jenner & Block

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