A lawyer has the right to agree legal fees with a client for legal services provided for litigation purposes or out-of-court work. The lawyer’s fees may be agreed orally or in writing and in the event the client will be represented in court, a retainer has to be signed and filed with the Registrar. The retainer provides that in the absence of an express agreement between the parties for the calculation of the lawyer’s fees, the lawyer’s remuneration shall be calculated according to the scales provided under the Civil Procedure Rules. Upon accepting his retainer, a lawyer undertakes to represent his client until the completion of the work that he/she has undertaken, except if his/her services are terminated by the client and the client undertakes the obligation to pay the lawyer for his services according to the retainer or any other agreement entered into between the parties. Retainers are not signed exclusively for the representation of a client in court, but instead, retainers may be executed for out-of-court work as well.
During the representation of a client by his lawyers, there come instances where a need arises as to the determination of the lawyer’s remuneration anew and the substitution of the initial agreement with a new one. If the client does not perform his obligations under the lawyer-client agreement for the payment of legal fees, the lawyer has the right to claim his remuneration through the filing of either an action against the client in court or a bill of costs to be assessed by the Registrar against the client. The choice of the lawyer to claim his legal fees through an action in court constitutes a right safeguarded by the Constitution. This issue was examined by the District Court of Nicosia in a recent case. According to the facts of the said case, at the time of filing the pleadings of the case, the client signed a retainer in which no reference was made to any specific agreement between the parties as to the payment of the lawyer’s legal fees. Hence, according to the Civil Procedure Rules the lawyer’s remuneration was determined according to the applicable scale. However, at some point before the end of the case the client wished to terminate the services of his lawyer, at which point the parties agreed that the former would pay the agreed outstanding balance of the lawyer’s remunerationwithin two days. The client did not perform his obligations under this oral agreement and as a result his ex-lawyer brought an action against him claiming the agreed outstanding balance.
In the said case, the client argued the lawyer was not entitled to claim his remuneration against him through an action, but instead the lawyer should have filed to the Registrar a bill of costs for assessment against his ex-client. Dismissing the allegations of the defendant, the court held that an oral agreement was entered into between the two parties at the time of the lawyer’s discharge, according to which the client agreed and undertook to pay to the lawyer his outstanding legal fees. In the aforesaid judgment, the District Court of Nicosia reiterates the aforesaid principles regarding the payment of legal remuneration and indicates that the retainer is indeed an agreement. The right to freedom of contract, as safeguarded by the Constitution, covers lawyers too, who are entitled to shape together with their clients the contents of the agreement for the provision of their services.