Ohio Advises on the Use of Flat Fee Agreements in Criminal Cases

In its recent Ethics Opinion 2016-1, the Supreme Court of Ohio’s Board of Professional Conduct addressed the issue of whether an attorney retained in a criminal matter can enter into a flat fee agreement requiring a client to pay a fixed amount in advance of representation.

Interpreting Ohio Rule of Professional Conduct 1.5, the board advised that fixed fee agreements are permissible; however, if the representation is not completed for any reason, the attorney is obligated to return any unearned portion of the fee regardless of whether the fee was designated “nonrefundable” or “earned upon receipt.” Moreover, a flat fee must be deposited in the attorney’s trust account unless it is designated “nonrefundable” or “earned upon receipt.” The board further advised that when a fee is designated as “nonrefundable” or “earned upon receipt,” it does not need to be deposited in the trust account; however, the client must be advised in writing that he or she may be entitled to a refund pursuant to Rule 1.16(e) if the attorney withdraws from the case before the representation is completed.

To read more about the Opinion, click here.

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