Attorney retainer agreement should state matters for which the attorney is NOT retained.

It is important for a retainer agreement to lay out not only the matters that the attorney will represent the client on but also those that the attorney will not provide representation. The client defeated the motion to dismiss in Katz v Siano, 187 AD3d 639, 640 [1st Dept 2020], as the court held:

Plaintiff adequately plead that defendant, who was retained to represent him in a criminal matter, owed him a duty of care with respect to legal advice he allegedly offered in connection with a pending civil action (see Jane St. Co. v Rosenberg & Estis, 192 AD2d 451 [1st Dept 1993], lv denied 82 NY2d 654 [1993]). While the parties entered into a written retainer agreement stating that the legal representation was for the criminal matter, on this motion to dismiss the written retainer does not eliminate any possibility that defendant owed plaintiff a duty of care in connection with legal advice he had given and was continuing to give regarding the separate civil matter, insofar as plaintiff relied upon it within that matter rather than in the criminal matter (see Genesis Merchant Partners, L.P. v Gilbride, Tusa, Last & Spellane, LLC, 157 AD3d 479, 482 [1st Dept 2018]). Accordingly, there is no documentary evidence here sufficient to require dismissal of the legal malpractice claim pursuant to CPLR 3211 (a) (1) (see IMO Indus. v Anderson Kill & Olick, 267 AD2d 10 [1st Dept 1999]). Issues of fact precluding dismissal exist as to whether defendant’s legal malpractice was the proximate cause of any damages suffered by plaintiff in the civil matter and as to whether plaintiff suffered cognizable damages in that matter.

R. A. Klass
Your Court Street Lawyer

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