The Ufficio Studi del Consiglio Nazionale Forense (Research Office of the Italian Bar Association) clarified, already in December 2017 that Italian attorneys do not have a duty to communicate in writing to the client an estimate indicating the cost of their professional service and specify their expenses and fees BEFORE being engaged by a client. See Nota dell’Ufficio Studi n. 67 dated October 12, 2017
Notwithstanding the above, many still believe that an estimate before engagement is required. The misunderstanding is grounded in Law n. 124/2017 which introduced the obligation for independent contractors to provide customers with a written estimate of fees and expenses no later than the time of engagement.
It was argued initially (and it is a legend that dies hard) that Italian attorneys would be bound by the same provision and need to communicate to their clients an estimate of fees and expenses no later than the time of the execution of the engagement agreement.
This is not the case. The Note explained that this obligation only applies to the freelancers not to lawyers. Attorneys are not bound by that duty because they are subject to another and more specific requirement of the Italian Rules of Professional Conduct. According to the applicable provision, the attorney must inform the client of the level of complexity of the engagement, provide all information about the applicable fees and communicate in writing the foreseeable costs of service, distinguishing between fees and expenses (art 13.5, Italian BAR Association Regulation). This communication must be made in writing “to the person who gives the engagement“, which means that it can only be subsequent to the engagement. The CNF opinion explains that the estimate could certainly be given at the moment of the execution of the engagement agreement.
However, the Note specified, the failure to comply with the communication obligation in writing would not result in the nullity of the engagement agreement.
While the reasoning of the Note makes perfect sense, it should be remembered that the Ufficio Studi’s opinions are not the law.
The Note from the Bar association is available (in Italian) at http://www.quotidianogiuridico.it…
More on this topic is available (in Italian) at https://www.avvocatirandogurrieri.it…
Originally published on CGCFirm.com on May 2019