Ethics Committee Formal Opinion #1990-91/4

Providing Legal Services on a Sliding Fee Scale Based Upon Client’s Income

November 8, 1990


Rule 6.1 encourages a lawyer to discharge the duty to render public interest legal service by, among other means, providing professional services at no fee or a reduced fee to persons of limited means.  (Rule 6.1).

A lawyer may charge for services on a sliding scale basis (adjusted based upon the client’s income), consistent with Rule 1.5 (“Fees”), and Rule 6.1 (“Pro Bono” Publico Service”).  (Rule 1.5; Rule 1.6).

A lawyer may advertise having a sliding fee scale determined by a client’s income, provided that such advertising is not misleading and that the client clearly understands the sliding scale fee arrangement, (which should preferably be reduced to a written fee agreement).  (Rule 1.5(c); Rule 7.1; Rule 7.2).


(a) May an attorney charge for legal services on a sliding scale basis adjusting the fee based on the client’s income?

(b) May an attorney advertise that legal fees are determined by the income of the client?

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