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Meeting of the minds, not merely a client's signature, determines whether lawyers can recover based on hourly rate on an agreement for legal services.

January 1, 2010
Klehr, Harrison, Harvey, Bransburg & Ellers, LLP v. Mosaica Education, Inc., No. 07C-08-227-JEB, Del. Super.; Filed August 14, 2009; Decided December 14, 2009; By Judge John E. Babiarz, Jr.

A law firm may recover fees for legal services, as set forth in an unsigned contract, if there was a meeting of the minds as to the terms of the agreement. The court explained that language or actions can demonstrate a meeting of the minds; it need not be demonstrated by a client's signature. Due to the meeting of the minds and the validity of the legal services contract, the plaintiff law firm could recover an amount in damages based on a schedule of hourly fees in its unsigned retainer agreement. In previous decisions on recovery of legal fees where there was no written agreement and/or no record of services rendered, Delaware courts allowed law firms to recover fees in quantum meruit (i.e., a court-determined reasonable amount), but not necessarily at their hourly rate. Learning from the holding and reasoning in this decision, professionals should endeavor to keep detailed records of their services and regularly invoice their clients if they cannot secure a signature on a service contract.

Case Law Alert - 1st Qtr 2010

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Art C. Aranilla
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