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Ethics Opinions from the Bar Association of San Francisco

INFORMAL OPINION 1970-1

It is not unethical to make a service charge or interest charge to clients if their bills are not paid within 30 days. However, care should be taken to avoid anything that could reasonably be regarded as overreaching or unfair. For example, the fact that a further charge will be assessed should be communicated to the client in sufficient time to allow him ample opportunity to make the payment and avoid the charge.

QUESTION:
Would it be proper, as a matter of professional ethics, to make a service charge or interest charge to clients if their bills are not paid within thirty days?

OPINION:

In the opinion of the Committee there is no ethical principle which would prevent such practice.

However care should be taken to avoid anything that the client could reasonably regard as overreaching or unfairness. Specifically, the fact that a further charge will be imposed should be communicated to the client in time to give him an ample opportunity to avoid the charge by making payment. The Committee, of course, expresses no opinion with regard to any legal requirement applicable to service charges or interest rates.

All opinions of the Committee are subject to the following disclaimer:
Opinions rendered by the Ethics Committee are an uncompensated service of The Bar Association of San Francisco. Opinions are advisory only, and no liability whatsoever is assumed by the Committee or The Bar Association of San Francisco in rendering such opinions, and the opinions are relied upon at the risk of the user thereof. Opinions of the Committee are not binding in any manner upon the State Bar of California, the Board of Governors, any disciplinary committee, The Bar Association of San Francisco, or the individual members of the Ethics Committee.

In using these opinions you should be aware that subsequent judicial opinions and revised rules of professional conduct may have dealt with the areas covered by these ethics opinions.

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