Engagement Letters Should Include What Is Excluded from the Engagement

Good engagement letters set out in careful detail what services the law firm is agreeing to provide to the client, so that there is no question about the scope of the law firm's duty to the client. A recent case illustrates that detailing in engagement letters what services are not included in the engagement could help avoid a malpractice claim. In Landmark Worldwide, LLC. v. Seyfarth Shaw, LLP, Case No. BC635695, Cal. Super. June 29, 2018, a law firm agreed to represent a client in an employment discrimination case. The client did not tender the matter to its insurer in a timely manner, but after the insurer denied coverage, the client sued the law firm for failing to advise it to tender the claim to its carrier at the time the firm was engaged. Although the jury ultimately rejected plaintiff's claim that the defendant law firm committed malpractice by not advising it to claim insurance coverage for an employee discrimination suit, perhaps the case would never have been filed, or if filed, dismissed on motion, if the law firm had included in its engagement letter that matters involving the reporting or tendering of claims to the client's insurer was not part of the law firm's engagement, and was the client's sole responsibility. This case went all the way to a jury determination, and perhaps a different jury might have reached a different conclusion.