Legal services agreement dispute is a special type of dispute between individuals, organisations providing legal services and their clients related to the performance or non-performance of the rights and obligations that the parties have agreed in the legal services agreement. In fact, disputes related to legal services agreements arise more and more and the Court is the body which is often chosen by the parties to resolve these disputes. This article will refer to the disputes over legal services agreement and notes when disputing in Court.
- What is legal services agreement?
Legal services agreement is an agreement between a law-practicing organisation or a lawyer practicing individually and its client, under which the law-practicing organisation/lawyer provides legal services for the client and the client must pay the service fee as agreed. Legal services agreements are governed by the Civil Code, the Law on Lawyers and related guiding documents.
Unlike other service agreement, the service provider must be a law-practicing organisation (law office or law firm) or a lawyer practicing individually. In addition, the subject of this agreement is legal services including participating in legal proceedings, providing legal advice, out-of-court representation for clients and other legal services.
Pursuant to Clause 2 Article 26 of the Law on Lawyers, a legal services agreement must be made in writing and contain the following main contents: information of the parties; content of the services; duration of the agreement; rights and obligations of the parties; method of billing and specific service fee level; expenses (if any); liability for breach of agreement and methods of dispute resolution.
- Disputes over legal services agreement
From the analysis of legal services agreement above, it can be understood that disputes over legal services agreements are conflicts and disagreements between a law-practicing organisation or a lawyer practicing individually and their clients regarding the performance or non-performance of their rights and obligations under the legal services agreement.
In reality, nowadays, the cause of disputes over legal services agreement comes from several reasons such as the legal service provider in the agreement does not have the authority to sign this type of agreement because it is not a law-practicing organisation or a lawyer practicing individually; reasons related to service fee, promise of rewards or because the law-practicing organisation/lawyer violates the prohibitions under the Law on Lawyers and the Code of Ethics and Conduct for the Vietnamese lawyers (disclosing information about cases, matters, their clients; providing legal services to clients with opposing interests in the same case or matter; etc.).
- Notes on settling legal services agreement disputes in Court
Firstly, regarding the limitation period for filing a lawsuit for resolving disputes over legal services agreement
According to Article 429 of Civil Code, the limitation period for filing a lawsuit to request the Court to resolve disputes over legal services agreement is 03 years from the date on which the person with the right to make the request knew or should have known that his/her lawful rights and interests were violated.
Nevertheless, as stipulated in Article 157 of the Civil Code, the limitation period for initiating legal action for a case shall re-commence when: (i) The obligor has admitted a part or all of its obligations to the plaintiff; (ii) The obligor has admitted or fulfilled part of its obligations to the plaintiff; or (iii) The parties have reconciled bythemselves. Accordingly, the limitation period for filing a lawsuit shall re-commence from the date following the date of the occurrence of the above events.
The parties when entering into a legal services agreement need to note the limitation period for filing a lawsuit in order to best protect their interests.
Secondly, disputing parties should note that the court will rely on the Civil Code, the Law on Lawyers, the Code of Ethics and Conduct for Vietnamese lawyers, and the legal services agreement as basis to settle the dispute. Therefore, before agreeing to use the legal services of any law-practicing organisation/lawyer or before providing legal services to any client, the parties must enter into a legal services agreement in writing, not in words or acts.
Thirdly, before one of the parties to the legal services agreement initiates a lawsuit to a competent court, the parties may consider resolving the legal services agreement dispute through conciliation and mediation to save time and costs.
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