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Advancing costs in a contingency case.

The ethical rules permit an attorney who is hired on a contingent fee basis to advance costs in the pursuit of the case. Such costs would not include bills for medical treatment, but do include the costs of litigation, such as expert witness fees (including medical evaluations), court filing fees, depositions, investigations, etc. Our firm will present those costs to the client at the conclusion of his or her case. At a recent seminar I attended I was shocked at one practice, a practice that I do not nor does my firm engage in.

At a national seminar which was held on the West Coast one panelist described advancing the costs of his cases sometimes by using a bank’s line of credit for his firm, and passing those costs on to the client at the case’s end. That did not grab my attention. What followed did. He stated that any interest paid on that money was also to be paid by the client. To my amazement, others in the audience stated that they engage in the same practice whether they finance the case from a line of credit or not.

I am certainly not aware of what the governing boards of other states expect of their practicing attorneys regarding these issues. I will categorically state that I am not comfortable, nor would I ever expect to be comfortable, assessing interest costs to clients for expenses incurred during the life of the litigation.

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