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Engagement letters

We have a new client who we have sent an engagement letter to, he has brought it back and said he refuses to sign it as "he doesn't agree with things like that" (he used to be a solicitor) where does that leave us - can we deem it to be in force as he has received it and those are our terms or do we need to say we can't act?


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11th May 2012 14:34

Do youself a favour

and decline to act for such a client. They will be no end of trouble.



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11th May 2012 14:41

Engagement Letters

Read your PI Policy wording, you would do well to heed the above advice.

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By LyneT
11th May 2012 14:57

Agree with Roland. I would not act.
If you think he is worth the hassle, you could write to him and say that those are the terms under which you are acting. If he allows you to act for him then he has agreed with them.
Personally, I would not bother. There will be other clients.

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11th May 2012 15:03


with - do not touch!!

"He used to be a solicitor" - What is he now - apart from a pillock?!

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By Flash Gordon
11th May 2012 15:07

Run a mile

If he's complaining already, before you've even started any work, just think how picky and whingy he's going to get when he's got accounts or tax returns or whatever to review and sign. And a £ says he'd be the sort to query a bill and refuse to pay in full. Tell him where to stick and save yourself the aggro.

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11th May 2012 15:25

Leave him alone

I agree with everyone (those that I read, anyway).

Leave him alone.  He's going to be hard work.   And no LoE leaves you open to everything.

I have come across a number of people who say that they're a solicitor but it turns out that they just have a law degree.   Does that make them a solicitor?

I do have one client who introduced herself at our first meeting, thus "I'm a solicitor, but I'm crap".

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11th May 2012 15:55

Send him a disengagement letter ....

... and let us know whether he agrees with that  :)

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11th May 2012 15:56

Was there something he genuinely objected to?

Was there something particular in the LOE he genuinely objected to?


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11th May 2012 16:03

He may have a point
If you're using the standard templates provided by the main publishers or professional bodies then he may have a point as they are often completely way over the top. I used to use them and likewise had several potential clients who either wouldn't sign them or wanted major changes. I've now written my own which is far more concise yet still has the most important aspects included - just none of the superfluous duplication and waffle.

Having seen the engagement letters issued by other professionals, such as solicitors, surveyors, etc., they tend to be far shorter, far more to the point and more easily understood. For example, I've bought/sold 3 properties, and the solicitors LOFEs (3 different solicitors) were all just 1 or 2 pages - and that's for something far more important and potentially costly if things go wrong.

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11th May 2012 16:07

Engagement letter

Thanks for the replies

I'm going to draft a more tailored engagement letter (ie remove a lot of the duplication as mentioned previously) and say that these are the terms we operate under, he either accepts them or unfortunately we can not act for him.

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11th May 2012 17:31

my two pennyworth

I've got a client who is a solicitor. She signed the engagement letter and even confirmed in writing that she agreed to my limitation of liability. I agree with the other posters, it's a sign of trouble. I've never had a client refuse to sign an engagement letter. One refused to sign a letter of representation for a (non-audit) set of accounts. He did turn out to be a bit awkward.

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By jford
11th May 2012 22:43

Liberate yourself
I agree with the other posters on this. He sounds like more trouble than he's worth. I find getting rid of poor clients to be incredibly liberating for our firm. I always find it amazing though that clients who spend their time moaning about everything and taking an age to pay us still express total disbelief when you tell them you're resigning!

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12th May 2012 13:13


jford wrote:
I always find it amazing though that clients who spend their time moaning about everything and taking an age to pay us still express total disbelief when you tell them you're resigning!

I believe that clients/people like this go through their life moaning about everything and then paying late, if at all. Very few people ever stand up to them and when someone does, it comes as a great shock to them.

And yes, getting rid of poor clients is indeed a very liberating experience indeed. A bit scary the first time but it gets easier and more enjoyable. Haha.

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12th May 2012 16:59

send him a link

The majority of the responses tell you to stay well clear and I agree - especially when he says "he doesn't agree with things like that " -  aren't solicitors supposed to do engagement letters?

Write to him and decline to act (I don't see that a disengagement letter makes sense when there has been no engagement letter)

and send him a link to this thread!

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12th May 2012 17:06

Hahahahahahahaha - I like it!

Comptable wrote:

and send him a link to this thread!

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By DMGbus
14th May 2012 09:19

Ask client what's wrong with engagement letter

A different approach - give clients what they want (if commercially & ethically possible).

Personally I hate the standard ICAEW engagement letters - personally I feel like falling asleep half-way (or less) reading though one.

I DO believe that something BETTER is possible.  Now, if the client could come up with an alternative that covers what's necessary (and is CUSTOMER FRIENDLY) then a good solution...may be use it for all future clients.

I recall that in the past year or two some good-looking one or two page engagement letters have been referred to on this forum, and that's an alternative to the OTT long-winded non-customer-friendly produce of ICAEW.

A client rejecting an OTT engagement letter can viewed in one of two ways:

(a) A sign of trouble in the future a client who thinks they know it all


(b) A switched-on intelligent client who could be good to work with in the future

At the first meeting with a client I'd hopefully discover if it's a case of (a) or (b).

Personally I'd go for (b) in this case.

In the case of (a) remember accountants are experts in tax and accounts, solicitors more likely expert in contracts (such as engagement letters).  Is it not rather patronising to criticise a client who has greater knowledge?  I'd never claim to have better knowledge about building a wall than a client who was a bricklayer.  We all have our special trade knowledge, and I respect clients for this.  Treat clients with respect.

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14th May 2012 09:56

I have had this

A new solicitor client in a lot of trouble already raised the same issue when he was sent a standard engagement letter customised to cover only the services he required. He refused to sign it on the basis that he did not like the terms and conditions.

My response was that the engagement letter is a standard document issued by the Institute and agreed with our PII providers. We cannot act if he does not sign it. A signed letter was faxed 10 minutes later!

You need to consider if you have the time to customise the letter to your client's specification while ensuring it gives you adequate protections, and then agree it with your PII providers.

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15th May 2012 12:39

Whilst I agree ...

... with all the comments above, and that you probably don't need clients like that, can I ask why you didn't air, discuss and agree all aspects of working together when you first explored the possibility of doing so?  Surely you're not ashamed of your standard terms and conditions of engagement.

Selling this way, you get the prospect to handle their own objections!

In my experience, and that of a great many others, early on in the sales conversation is the time to decide whether or not you can work together.  If you decide you can't, you then needn't waste any more of each other's time trying to find something to work on.

David Winch

Make Sales Without Selling and Get Paid What You're Worth

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15th May 2012 13:13

Ex solicitor doesn't agree with Eng Letter

Why wld an ex solicitor refuse to sign an LOE? Did he think u wldn't produce one? And don't tell me he didn't use std templates when he was practicing. Solicitors take more short cuts with this sort of thing than anyone else. Tell him to piss off.

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16th May 2012 10:32


I agree with all comments however as one person said, a picky client is not always trouble.  I use my governing body's LOE which amounts to a novel and yes some have questioned it usually because they don't understand it, but once explained they feel more confortable. As time moves on you realise those picky clients that ask all the questions are just usually uneasy about putting their tax affairs in to the hands of a stranger especially those such as solicitors who are used to controlling everything.  Over time they relax and come to trust you and sometimes its nice to have a client want to discuss the work you have done rather than signing it and running for the door!  Its a two way street just because they appoint you doesn't mean you automatically have their complete trust straight away.  Give them a shot and if you can't work with them terminate the engagement.

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