Effective: January 1, 2022 Currentness
(a) A lawyer shall not make an agreement for, charge, or collect an unreasonable fee or an unreasonable amount for expenses. The factors to be considered in determining the reasonableness of a fee include the following:
(1) the time and labor required, the novelty and difficulty of the questions involved, and the skill requisite to perform the legal service properly;
(2) the likelihood, if apparent to the client, that the acceptance of the particular employment will preclude other employment by the lawyer;
(3) the fee customarily charged in the locality for similar legal services;
(4) the amount involved and the results obtained;
(5) the time limitations imposed by the client or by the circumstances;
(6) the nature and length of the professional relationship with the client;
(7) the experience, reputation, and ability of the lawyer or lawyers performing the services; and
(8) whether the fee is fixed or contingent.
(b) Before or within a reasonable time after commencing the representation, the lawyer shall communicate to the client in writing:
(1) the basis or rate of the fee and expenses for which the client will be responsible, except when the lawyer will continue to charge a regularly represented client on the same basis or rate; and
(2) the scope of the representation, except when the lawyer will perform services that are of the same general kind as previously rendered to a regularly represented client.
The lawyer shall communicate promptly to the client in writing any changes in the basis or rate of the fee or expenses.
(c) A “contingent fee” is a fee for legal services under which compensation is to be contingent in whole or in part upon the successful accomplishment or disposition of the subject matter of the representation.
(1) The terms of a contingent fee agreement shall be communicated in writing before or within a reasonable time after commencing the representation and shall include the following information:
(i) The names of the lawyer and the client;
(ii) A statement of the nature of the claim, controversy or other matters with reference to which the services are to be performed, including each event triggering the lawyer's right to compensation;
(iii) The method by which the fee is to be determined, including the percentage or amounts that will accrue to the lawyer in the event of settlement, trial or appeal, or other final disposition, and whether the contingent fee will be determined before or after the deduction of (A) costs and expenses advanced by the lawyer or otherwise incurred by the client, and (B) other amounts owed by the client and payable from amounts recovered;
(iv) A statement of the circumstances under which the lawyer may be entitled to compensation if the lawyer's representation concludes, by discharge, withdrawal or otherwise, before the occurrence of an event that triggers the lawyer's right to a contingent fee;
(v) A statement regarding expenses, including (A) an estimate of the expenses to be incurred, (B) whether the lawyer is authorized to advance funds for litigation-related expenses to be reimbursed to the lawyer from the recovery, and, if so, the amount of expenses the lawyer may advance without further approval, and (C) the client's obligation, if any, to pay expenses if there is no recovery;
(vi) A statement regarding the possibility that a court will award costs or attorney fees against the client;
(vii) A statement regarding the possibility that a court will award costs or attorney fees in favor of the client, and, if so, how any such costs or attorney fees will be accounted for and handled;
(viii) A statement informing the client that if the lawyer wishes to hire a lawyer in another firm to assist in the handling of a matter (“associated counsel”), the lawyer will promptly inform the client in writing of the identity of the associated counsel, and that (A) the hiring of associated counsel will not increase the contingent fee, unless the client otherwise agrees in writing, and (B) the client has the right to disapprove the hiring of associated counsel and, if hired, to terminate the employment of associated counsel; and
(ix) A statement that other persons or entities may have a right to be paid from amounts recovered on the client's behalf, for example when an insurer or a federal or state agency has paid money or benefits on behalf of a client in connection with the subject of the representation.
(2) A contingent fee agreement must be signed by the client and the lawyer.
(3) The lawyer shall retain a copy of the contingent fee agreement for seven years after the final resolution of the case, or the termination of the lawyer's services, whichever first occurs.
(4) No contingent fee agreement may be made
(i) for representing a defendant in a criminal case,
(ii) in a domestic relations matter, where payment is contingent on the securing of a divorce or upon the amount of maintenance or child support, or property settlement in lieu of such amounts, or
(iii) in connection with any case or proceeding where a contingency method of a determination of attorney fees is otherwise prohibited by law.
(5) Upon conclusion of a contingent fee matter, the lawyer shall provide the client a written disbursement statement showing the amount or amounts received, an itemization of costs and expenses incurred in handling of the matter, sums to be disbursed to third parties, including lawyers in other law firms, and computation of the contingent fee.
(6) No contingent fee agreement shall be enforceable unless the lawyer has substantially complied with all of the provisions of this Rule.
(7) The form Contingent Fee Agreement following the comment to this Rule may be used for contingent fee agreements and shall be sufficient to comply with paragraph (c)(1) of this Rule. The authorization of this form shall not prevent the use of other forms consistent with this Rule. Nothing in this Rule prevents a lawyer from entering into an agreement that provides for a contingent fee combined with one or more other types of fees, such as hourly or flat fees, provided that the agreement complies with this Rule insofar as the contingent fee is concerned.
(d) Other than in connection with the sale of a law practice pursuant to Rule 1.17, a division of a fee between lawyers who are not in the same firm may be made only if:
(1) the division is in proportion to the services performed by each lawyer or each lawyer assumes joint responsibility for the representation;
(2) the client agrees to the arrangement, including the basis upon which the division of fees shall be made, and the client's agreement is confirmed in writing; and
(3) the total fee is reasonable.
(e) Referral fees are prohibited.
(f) Fees are not earned until the lawyer confers a benefit on the client or performs a legal service for the client. Advances of unearned fees are the property of the client and shall be deposited in the lawyer's trust account pursuant to Rule 1.15B(a)(1) until earned. If advances of unearned fees are in the form of property other than funds, then the lawyer shall hold such property separate from the lawyer's own property pursuant to Rule 1.15A(a).
(g) Nonrefundable fees and nonrefundable retainers are prohibited. Any agreement that purports to restrict a client's right to terminate the representation, or that unreasonably restricts a client's right to obtain a refund of unearned or unreasonable fees, is prohibited.
(h) A “flat fee” is a fee for specified legal services for which the client agrees to pay a fixed amount, regardless of the time or effort involved.
(1) The terms of a flat fee shall be communicated in writing before or within a reasonable time after commencing the representation and shall include the following information:
(i) A description of the services the lawyer agrees to perform;
(ii) The amount to be paid to the lawyer and the timing of payment for the services to be performed;
(iii) If any portion of the flat fee is to be earned by the lawyer before conclusion of the representation, the amount to be earned upon the completion of specified tasks or the occurrence of specified events; and
(iv) The amount or the method of calculating the fees the lawyer earns, if any, should the representation terminate before completion of the specified tasks or the occurrence of specified events.
(2) If all or any portion of a flat fee is paid in advance of being earned and a dispute arises about whether the lawyer has earned all or part of the flat fee, the lawyer shall comply with Rule 1.15A(c) with respect to any portion of the flat fee that is in dispute.
(3) The form Flat Fee Agreement following the comment to this Rule may be used for flat fee agreements and shall be sufficient. The authorization of this form shall not prevent the use of other forms consistent with this Rule.
Repealed and readopted April 12, 2007, effective January 1, 2008. Amended March 10, 2011, effective July 1, 2011. Amended
effective April 6, 2016; January 31, 2019. Amended October 1, 2020, effective January 1, 2021; September 9, 2021, effective
January 1, 2022.
Reasonableness of Fee and Expenses
 Paragraph (a) requires that lawyers charge fees that are reasonable under the circumstances. The factors specified in (1) through (8) are not exclusive. Nor will each factor be relevant in each instance. Paragraph (a) also requires that expenses for which the client will be charged must be reasonable. A lawyer may seek reimbursement for the cost of services performed in- house, such as copying, or for other expenses incurred in-house, such as telephone charges, either by charging a reasonable amount to which the client has agreed in advance or by charging an amount that reasonably reflects the cost incurred by the lawyer.
Basis or Rate of Fee
 In a new client-lawyer relationship, the scope of the representation and the basis or rate of the fee and expenses must be promptly communicated in writing to the client, but the communication need not take the form of a formal engagement letter or agreement, and it need not be signed by the client. It is not necessary to recite all the factors that underlie the basis or rate of the fee, but only those that are directly involved in its computation. It is sufficient, for example, to state that the basic rate is an hourly charge or a fixed amount or an estimated amount, to identify the factors that may be taken into account in finally fixing the fee, or to furnish the client with a simple memorandum or the lawyer's customary fee schedule. Similarly, it is not necessary to recite all the anticipated services that comprise, or the exclusions from, the scope of representation, so long as the communication accurately conveys the agreement with the client.
When a lawyer has regularly represented a client and the lawyer will continue to charge the client on the same basis or rate, the lawyer is not required to communicate the basis or rate of the fee and expenses. In such circumstances, the lawyer and client ordinarily will have evolved an understanding concerning the basis or rate of the fee and the expenses for which the client will be responsible.
When a lawyer will perform services for a regularly represented client that are of the same general kind as previously rendered, the lawyer is not required to communicate the scope of the new representation. Whether services are of “the same general kind as previously rendered” depends on consideration of the totality of the circumstances surrounding the services previously rendered and those that will be rendered. Circumstances that may be relevant include, but are not limited to, the type of the services rendered (e.g., litigation or transactional), the subject matter of the services rendered (e.g., breach of contract or patent infringement), and the sophistication of the client.
Whether the client-lawyer relationship is new or one where the lawyer has regularly represented the client, any changes in the basis or rate of the fee or expenses must be communicated in writing. Changes in the scope of the representation may occur frequently over the course of the representation and are not required to be communicated in writing; however, other rules of professional conduct may require additional communications and communicating such changes in writing may help avoid misunderstandings between clients and lawyers. When other developments occur during the representation that render an earlier communication substantially inaccurate or inadequate, a subsequent written communication may help avoid misunderstandings between clients and lawyers.
Terms of Payment
 A lawyer may require advance payment of a fee, but is obliged to return any unearned portion. See Rule 1.16(d). A lawyer may accept property in payment for services, such as an ownership interest in an enterprise, providing this does not involve acquisition of a proprietary interest in the cause of action or subject matter of the litigation contrary to Rule 1.8(i). However, a fee paid in property instead of money may be subject to the requirements of Rule 1.8(a) because such fees often have the essential qualities of a business transaction with the client.
 A fee agreement may not be made whose terms might induce the lawyer improperly to curtail services for the client or perform them in a way contrary to the client's interest. For example, a lawyer should not enter into an agreement whereby services are to be provided only up to a stated amount when it is foreseeable that more extensive services probably will be required, unless the situation is adequately explained to the client. Otherwise, the client might have to bargain for further assistance in the midst of a proceeding or transaction. However, it is proper to define the extent of services in light of the client's ability to pay. A lawyer should not exploit a fee arrangement based primarily on hourly charges by using wasteful procedures.
 Contingent fees, whether based on the recovery or savings of money, or on a nonmonetary outcome, are subject to the reasonableness standard of paragraph (a) of this Rule. In determining whether a particular contingent fee is reasonable, or whether it is reasonable to charge any form of contingent fee, a lawyer must consider the factors that are relevant under the circumstances. Applicable law may impose limitations on contingent fees, such as a ceiling on the percentage allowable, or may require a lawyer to offer clients an alternative basis for the fee. E.g., 28 U.S.C. § 2678 (limiting percentage of fees in Federal Tort Claims Act cases); C.R.S. § 8-43-403 (limiting percentage of contingent fee in certain worker's compensation cases). The prohibition on contingent fees in certain domestic relations matters does not preclude a contract for a contingent fee for legal representation in connection with the recovery of post-judgment balances due under support, maintenance or other financial orders because such contracts do not implicate the same policy concerns.
[6A] The scope of representation in a contingent fee agreement should reflect whether the representation includes the handling of counterclaims, third-party claims to amounts recovered, and appeals.
[6B] A lawyer may include a provision in a contingent fee agreement setting forth the lawyer's agreement to reimburse the client for any attorney fees and costs awarded against the client. A provision in a contingent fee agreement in which the client must reimburse the lawyer for any attorney fees or costs awarded against the lawyer may be improper.
[6C] Nothing in this Rule prohibits a lawyer from arranging, in the contingent fee agreement or otherwise, for a third party to guarantee some or all of the financial obligations of the client in the contingent fee agreement.
[6D] Third parties often hold claims to amounts recovered by the lawyer on behalf of the client. The lawyer may be required, as a matter of professional ethics, to pay these amounts from the proceeds of a recovery and not to disburse them to the client.
[6E] A tribunal may award attorney fees to the client under a fee-shifting provision of a contract or statute or as a sanction for discovery violations or other litigation misconduct. The fee agreement may provide for a different allocation of such an award of fees as between the client and the lawyer depending on the circumstances giving rise to the award, such as whether the fees are awarded as a sanction for improper conduct that necessitated additional effort by the lawyer, or whether the fees are awarded under a contractual or statutory fee-shifting provision. This rule does not limit the ways in which clients and lawyers may contract to allocate awards of attorney fees; however, the lawyer must comply with the reasonableness standard of paragraph
(a) of this Rule.
[6F] A conversion clause is a provision in a contingent fee agreement that notifies clients they may be liable for attorney fees in quantum meruit or on another alternate basis if the contingent fee agreement is terminated before the occurrence of the contingency. See, form Contingent Fee Agreement, ¶ (4). A conversion clause that requires payment of the alternate
fee immediately upon termination, and regardless of the occurrence of the contingency, would discourage most clients from discharging their lawyer. Few clients have the financial means to pay a contingent fee from their own resources, with no guarantee of replenishment by a recovery from a third party. Therefore, a conversion clause that requires payment of the alternate fee immediately upon termination may be appropriate only if (a) the client is sophisticated in legal matters, has the means to pay the fee regardless of the occurrence of the contingency, and has specifically negotiated the conversion clause; and (b) the contingent fee agreement expressly requires payment of the alternate fee immediately upon termination.
Division of Fee
 A division of fee is a single billing to a client covering the fee of two or more lawyers who are not in the same firm. A division of fee facilitates association of more than one lawyer in a matter in which neither alone could serve the client as well, and most often is used when the fee is contingent and the division is between a referring lawyer and a trial specialist. Paragraph
(d) permits the lawyers to divide a fee either on the basis of the proportion of services they render or if each lawyer assumes responsibility for the representation as a whole. In addition, the client must agree to the arrangement, including the share that each lawyer is to receive, and the agreement must be confirmed in writing. Contingent fee agreements must be in a writing signed by the client and must otherwise comply with paragraph (c) of this Rule. Joint responsibility for the representation entails financial and ethical responsibility for the representation as if the lawyers were associated in a partnership. A lawyer should refer a matter only to a lawyer who the referring lawyer reasonably believes is competent to handle the matter. See Rule 1.1.
 Paragraph (d) does not prohibit or regulate division of fees to be received in the future for work done when lawyers were previously associated in a law firm.
Disputes over Fees
 If a procedure has been established for resolution of fee disputes, such as an arbitration or mediation procedure established by the bar, the lawyer must comply with the procedure when it is mandatory, and, even when it is voluntary, the lawyer should conscientiously consider submitting to it. Law may prescribe a procedure for determining a lawyer's fee, for example, in representation of an executor or administrator, a class or a person entitled to a reasonable fee as part of the measure of damages. The lawyer entitled to such a fee and a lawyer representing another party concerned with the fee should comply with the prescribed procedure.
Advances of Unearned Fees and Engagement Retainer Fees
 The analysis of when a lawyer may treat advances of unearned fees as property of the lawyer must begin with the principle that the lawyer must hold in trust all fees paid by the client until there is a basis on which to conclude that the lawyer has earned the fee; otherwise the funds must remain in the lawyer's trust account because they are not the lawyer's property.
 To make a determination of when an advance fee is earned, the written statement of the basis or rate of the fee, when required by Rule 1.5(b) or (h), should include a description of the benefit or service that justifies the lawyer's earning the fee, the amount of the advance unearned fee, as well as a statement describing when the fee is earned. Whether a lawyer has conferred a sufficient benefit to earn a portion of the advance fee will depend on the circumstances of the particular case. The circumstances under which a fee is earned should be evaluated under an objective standard of reasonableness. Rule 1.5(a).
 Advances of unearned fees, including advances of all or a portion of a flat fee, are those funds the client pays for specified legal services that the lawyer has agreed to perform in the future. Pursuant to Rule 1.5(f), the lawyer must deposit an advance of unearned fees in the lawyer's trust account. The funds may be earned only as the lawyer performs specified legal services or confers benefits on the client as provided for in the written statement of the basis of the fee, if a written statement is required
by Rule 1.5(b). See also Restatement (Third) of the Law Governing Lawyers §§ 34, 38 (1998). Rule 1.5(f) does not prevent a lawyer from entering into these types of arrangements.
 For example, the lawyer and client may agree that portions of the advance of unearned fees are deemed earned at the lawyer's hourly rate and become the lawyer's property as and when the lawyer provides legal services.
 A lawyer and client may agree that a flat fee or a portion of a flat fee is earned in various ways. For example, the lawyer and client may agree to an advance flat fee that will be earned in whole or in part based upon the lawyer's completion of specific tasks or the occurrence of specific events, regardless of the precise amount of the lawyer's time involved. For instance, in a criminal defense matter, a lawyer and client may agree that the lawyer earns portions of the flat fee upon the lawyer's entry of appearance, initial advisement, review of discovery, preliminary hearing, pretrial conference, disposition hearing, motions hearing, trial, and sentencing. Similarly, in a trusts and estates matter, a lawyer and client may agree that the lawyer earns portions of the flat fee upon client consultation, legal research, completing the initial draft of testamentary documents, further client consultation, and completing the final documents.
 The portions of the advance flat fee earned as each such event occurs need not be in equal amounts. However, the fees attributed to each event should reflect a reasonable estimate of the proportionate value of the legal services the lawyer provides in completing each designated event to the anticipated legal services to be provided on the entire matter. See Rule 1.5(a); Feiger, Collison & Killmer v. Jones, 926 P.2d 1244, 1252-53 (Colo. 1996) (client's sophistication is relevant factor).
 “[A]n ‘engagement retainer fee’ is a fee paid, apart from any other compensation, to ensure that a lawyer will be available for the client if required. An engagement retainer must be distinguished from a lump-sum fee [i.e., a flat fee] constituting the entire payment for a lawyer's service in a matter and from an advance payment from which fees will be subtracted (see § 38, Comment g). A fee is an engagement retainer only if the lawyer is to be additionally compensated for actual work, if any, performed.” Restatement (Third) of the Law Governing Lawyers § 34 Comment e. An engagement retainer fee agreement must comply with Rule 1.5(a), (b), and (g), and should expressly include the amount of the engagement retainer fee, describe the service or benefit that justifies the lawyer's earning the engagement retainer fee, and state that the engagement retainer fee is earned upon receipt. As defined above, an engagement retainer fee will be earned upon receipt because the lawyer provides an immediate benefit to the client, such as forgoing other business opportunities by making the lawyer's services available for a given period of time to the exclusion of other clients or potential clients, or by giving priority to the client's work over other matters.
 Because an engagement retainer fee is earned at the time it is received, it must not be commingled with client property. However, it may be subject to refund to the client in the event of changed circumstances.
 It is unethical for a lawyer to fail to return unearned fees, to charge an excessive fee, or to characterize any lawyer's fee as nonrefundable. Lawyer's fees are always subject to refund if either excessive or unearned. If all or some portion of a lawyer's fee becomes subject to refund, then the amount to be refunded should be paid directly to the client if there is no further legal work to be performed or if the lawyer's employment is terminated. In the alternative, if there is an ongoing client-lawyer relationship and there is further work to be done, it may be deposited in the lawyer's trust account, to be withdrawn from the trust account as it is earned.
Notes of Decisions (187)
Rules of Prof. Cond., Rule 1.5, CO ST RPC Rule 1.5
Current with amendments received through December 15, 2021.
End of Document © 2022 Thomson Reuters. No claim to original U.S. Government Works.
Current with amendments received through December 15, 2021.
______________________ (Client), retains ____________________ (Lawyer) to perform the legal services described in paragraph (1) below. The Lawyer agrees to perform them faithfully and with due diligence.
(1) The claim, controversy, and other matters with reference to which the services are to be performed are: ________________________________________________________. The representation (will) (will not) [indicate which] include the handling of counterclaims, third party claims to amounts recovered, and appeals.
(2) The contingency upon which compensation is to be paid is the Client's recovery of funds by settlement or judgment.
(3) The Client will pay the Lawyer __ percent of the (gross amount collected) (net amount collected) [indicate which]. ("Gross amount collected" means the amount collected before any subtraction of expenses and disbursements) ("Net amount collected" means the amount of the collection remaining after subtraction of expenses and disbursements [including] [not including] costs or attorney fees awarded to an opposing party and against the Client.) [indicate which]. "The amount collected" (includes) (does not include) [indicate which] specially awarded attorney fees and costs awarded to the Client and against an opposing party.
(4) The Client is not to be liable to pay compensation otherwise than from amounts collected for the Client by the Lawyer, except as follows: In the event the Client terminates this contingent fee agreement without wrongful conduct by the Lawyer which would cause the Lawyer to forfeit any fee, or if the Lawyer justifiably withdraws from the representation of the Client, the Lawyer may ask the court or other tribunal to order that the Lawyer be paid a fee based upon the reasonable value of the services provided by the Lawyer. If the Lawyer and the Client cannot agree how the Lawyer is to be compensated in this circumstance, the Lawyer will request the court or other tribunal to determine: (1) whether the Client has been unfairly or unjustly enriched if the Client does not pay a fee to the Lawyer; and, if so (2) the amount of the fee owed, taking into account the nature and complexity of the Client''s case, the time and skill devoted to the Client''s case by the Lawyer, and the benefit obtained by the Client as a result of the Lawyer''s efforts. Any such fee shall be payable only out of the gross recovery obtained by or on behalf of the Client and the amount of such fee shall not be greater than the fee that would have been earned by the Lawyer if the contingency described in this contingent fee agreement had occurred.
(5) A court or other tribunal may award costs or attorney fees to an opposing party and against the Cclient.
(6) The Client will be liable to the lawyer for reasonable expenses and disbursements. Such expenses and disbursements are estimated to be $ __________. The Client authorizes the Lawyer to incur expenses and make disbursements up to a maximum of $ __________. The Lawyer will not exceed this limitation without the Client's further written authority. The Client will reimburse the Lawyer for such expenditures (upon receipt of a billing), (in specified installments), (upon final resolution), (etc.) [indicate which].
(7) If the Lawyer wishes to hire a lawyer in another firm to assist in the handling of a matter (called an "associated counsel"), the Lawyer will promptly inform the Client in writing of the identity of the associated counsel and that the hiring of associated counsel will not increase the contingent fee, unless the Client otherwise agrees in writing. The Client has a right to disapprove the hiring of associated counsel and to terminate the employment of associated counsel for any reason.
(8) Other persons or entities may have a right to be paid from amounts recovered on the Client's behalf. The Client (authorizes) (does not authorize) [indicate which] the Lawyer to pay from the amount collected the following: (e.g., all physicians, hospitals, subrogation claims and liens, etc.). The Lawyer may be legally required to pay the claims of third parties out of any monies collected for the Client, and not to disburse them to the Client. However, if the Client disputes the amount or validity of the third-party claim, the Lawyer may deposit the funds into the registry of an appropriate court for determination. Any amounts paid to third parties (will) (will not) [indicate which] be subtracted from the amount collected before computing the amount of the contingent fee under this agreement.
WE HAVE EACH READ THE ABOVE AGREEMENT BEFORE SIGNING IT.
In exchange for the fee described in this Agreement, Lawyer will perform the following legal services (“Services”): [Insert specific description of the scope and/or objective of the representation. Examples: Represent Client in DUI criminal case in Jefferson County; Prepare a Will [or Power of Attorney or contract]]
This is a flat fee agreement. Client will pay Lawyer [or Firm] $_________________ for Lawyer’s [or Firm’s] performance of the Services described in Section I, above, plus costs as described in Section VI, below. Client understands that Client is NOT entering into an hourly fee arrangement. This means that Lawyer [or Firm] will devote such time to the representation as is necessary, but the Lawyer’s [or Firm’s] fee will not be increased or decreased based upon the number of hours spent.