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Opinion 701

Question Presented

Do the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct permit a lawyer to offer legal services under a subscription service fee model in which the client pays a monthly fee for legal services that the client may or may not utilize? If the Rules permit such an arrangement, must the lawyer keep the fees paid by the client in the lawyer’s trust account until the end of each month and make an appropriate refund upon termination?

Looking to capitalize on the success of subscription fee services in other industries, a lawyer wants to offer legal services by subscription. Subscription clients will pay a monthly subscription fee to the lawyer. Subscription plans currently in use by lawyers offer a wide variety of services. For example, a lawyer may offer general counsel services to startups and nonprofits; corporate document review; 30-minute sessions with a lawyer each month; a specified number of attorney hours each month; and discounted legal fees for more complex matters.

In this example, the lawyer offers a subscription plan that provides each client a specified number of hours of legal services per month, plus templates of legal forms and weekly or monthly check-in calls with the lawyer. The monthly subscription price is significantly lower than the specified number of hours of legal services would otherwise cost at the lawyer’s usual rate. The lawyer agrees to provide additional legal services at a 10% discount. The client acknowledges that the lawyer is not obligated to perform the services if the lawyer has a conflict of interest or other professional limitation regarding the client’s matter.

The subscription contract provides that the monthly fee is due in advance. Further, the monthly fee is owed even if the client does not use all allotted services during the month. In such a case, no portion of the monthly fee will be refunded to the client and fees will not roll over to be applied to future legal services. The subscription contract also states that the client may cancel the contract at any time, but if the client cancels the subscription in the middle of the month the lawyer may retain the entire monthly subscription fee for the month.

Bluebook Citation

Tex. Comm. On Professional Ethics, Op. 701 (2024)