Ethics Committee Formal Opinion #1988/9-26

Contingency Fee Agreements in Workers’ Compensation Cases

October 12, 1989


An attorney may enter into a fee agreement with a client whereby the lawyer would receive a percentage of any recovery, or if no recovery, on an hourly rate.  The fee cannot be clearly excessive or illegal.  (Rule 1.5)

An attorney may enter into contingent fee arrangements with a client, so long as the arrangement is represented by a writing which satisfies the provisions of Rule 1.5(c) and the arrangement is both legal and not clearly excessive under the circumstances.  (Rule 1.5; Rule 1.5(c))

There is no prohibition under Rule 1.5 against mixing a contingent fee arrangement with an hourly fee arrangement for the same client and the same matter.  (Rule 1.5)

The question of excessiveness of fees is a question of fact to be determined by reference to the factors set forth in the Code.  (Rule 1.5(a)(1-8))

Where by statute or administrative rule, counsel fee are to be established or approved by a court or administrative body, fees in excess of those approved by the appropriate body would be illegal.


Do the New Hampshire Rules of Professional Conduct prevent a lawyer from entering into a fee agreement with a client involved in a worker’s compensation proceeding whereby the lawyer would receive twenty percent (20%) of any recovery the lawyer is able to obtain for the client or, if the lawyer is unsuccessful, an hourly rate.

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