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?