The Ethics of Engagement Letters and File Management (from Annual Advanced Estate Planning and Administration 2023) (On Demand Seminar)

MCLE Credits: 1.0
Ethics Credits Included: 1.0

MCLE Credit: 1.0 (Ethics: 1.0)
Live-Interactive Credit: 0.0
Designation Credit: 1.0 Trusts and Estates, 1.0 Ethics
(Designations Information)
Price: $79 (Includes a downloadable audio version.)
Viewable Through: 01/31/2026


A pre-recorded streaming VIDEO replay of one session from the April 2023 live seminar, Conner-Zaritsky 44th Annual Advanced Estate Planning and Administration Seminar.

Cosponsored with the Wills, Trusts and Estates Section of The Virginia Bar Association

This presentation discusses how a clear and concise engagement letter can help to prevent ethical issues in client matters. It covers the reasons for using engagement letters, what they should contain and why. Specifically, we examine some of the Virginia Rules of Professional Conduct to see how engagement letters help attorneys comply with the ethical rules regarding: competence (Rule 1.1), scope of engagement (Rule 1.2), communication (Rule 1.4), confidentiality (Rule 1.6), avoidance of conflicts of interest both generally (Rule 1.7) and with respect to former clients (Rule 1.9), charging reasonable fees (Rule 1.5), and declining or terminating representation (Rule 1.16). Communication with clients through a written engagement letter sets expectations for the engagement by identifying the client, defining the scope of the project or matter, and providing an explanation of how the fee will be determined. This presentation also discusses the concept of a “non-engagement” letter, as well as termination letters, engagement letters for representing fiduciaries, attorneys acting as fiduciaries, and best practices for each. In the second portion of the presentation, we explore the duties owed to clients with respect to the materials in their file, how long lawyers need to keep various documents, and file destruction. In this section, we also review legal ethics options and the following rules to determine how these materials provide guidance on these issues: Rule 1.4 (confidentiality), Rule 1.15 (safekeeping property), and Rule 1.16 (declining or terminating representation).

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Kathi Ayers, Vaughan,
Fincher & Sotelo, PC / Vienna


Frank A. Thomas, III, Frank A. Thomas, III PLC / Orange

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