Are Attorneys Required to Refund Legal Fees?

Authored by , LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at Law

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It can be expensive to hire a lawyer.  Much of that expense can come up front, as many lawyers require you to pay a lump sum which they then draw off of as they work on your case.  However, what if your legal issue resolves itself quickly?  The good news is that attorneys are required to refund any unearned legal fees.

Every state bar association has enacted their own rules of professional conduct.  Most of these are based on the American Bar Association’s (ABA) Model Rules of Professional Conduct.  Each state requires that attorney refund any unearned legal fees.  Lawyers that do not do so are subject to disciplinary measures, including sanction, suspension, and actual disbarment.

One important point to note is that the rules do vary from state to state.  Some states, such a Georgia, allow for some legal fees to be non-refundable as long as this is clearly stated in the fee agreement.  As always, make sure that you fully understand an attorney’s fee structure before hiring that attorney. 

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Last Modified: 09-06-2012 07:26 AM PDT

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