how long can you get money back from a retainer to a lawyer

by Prof. Lorena Labadie 4 min read

Full Answer

What is a retainer and can I get my money back?

This is called a retainer. If you fire a lawyer to whom you have paid a retainer, you are entitled to a refund of whatever money remains of the retainer after the lawyer is paid for his services up through the time you fired him. Once you fire him, he must prepare and give you a written accounting of the funds and a refund check.

Can I get a refund for the lawyer retainer fee?

If you are displeased with your provider’s services, you can request a refund for the retainer fee in no time at all with DoNotPay. The lawyer retainer fee is a payment that you make to your lawyer or other professional service providers to secure their work for a particular time frame.

How does an attorney work with a retainer?

How the attorney will work from the retainer. They will hold the retainer in trust until a specific amount of fees are incurred, then they will use the retainer amount to pay those fees. This description includes details on when the attorney will ask for an additional retainer amount.

Can I get my money back from my lawyer?

There is no guarantee that you can get your money back from a lawyer. However, if your attorney has wrongfully kept some or all of your retainer or financial settlement, your state bar association might be able to help. The more work you are willing to do, the more likely you are to shake loose your money from your attorney’s possession.

What is retainer fee?

What is earned retainer?

What to do if your lawyer refuses to refund you?

What to do if your lawyer denies your refund request?

How to get a refund from a lawyer?

Can you get a refund for a retainer fee?

Is a lawyer's fee refundable?

See more

About this website


How can I get my retainer fee back from my attorney?

An attorney is obligated to represent you and show up in court for your cases if you have retained him. If he is not doing his job or is not showing up you have a right to fire him and/pr ask for your retainer or at least part of your retainer back.

Sample Letter to Client regarding Refund of Balance of Retainer ...

USLegal has been awarded the TopTenREVIEWS Gold Award 9 years in a row as the most comprehensive and helpful online legal forms services on the market today. TopTenReviews wrote "there is such an extensive range of documents covering so many topics that it is unlikely you would need to look anywhere else".

Are retainers refundable? - Legal Answers - Avvo

In my experience, most individual/small practitioners would refund most if not all of your retainer. Unfortunately, the larger firms, often based at a national office that licenses their name to local practitioners, seem to charge $500 for the service of opening your "file" on their computer and setting up a billing arrangement with the national office.

How much do attorneys keep for retainer?

Many attorneys will simply keep the entire $3,000 of your retainer fee. Thus, the difference of the $250 per hour or $2,000 for 8 hours leaves a balance of $1,000 not used on your behalf and not returned to you.

What is retainer fee?

One of the ways of handling legal fees is for an attorney to charge an upfront amount called a “retainer” Just as the word “retainer” implies, this amount of money retains an attorney’s services until the retainer fee is used in full, Here it should be noted that many attorneys will keep the entire retainer amount whether, in the course of representation, the money is used entirely for your benefit or not.

Do attorneys charge unreasonable fees?

But, it is often said attorneys charge an unreasonable amount for their services. Of course some do. However, if you understand the ways attorneys handle their fees, you can select an attorney who best suits your idea of fair dealing and you can often get an outstanding representation for a fair and reasonable fee.

3 attorney answers

The language of the retainer agreement would control how much of a refund you would receive. The attorney would need to itemize his or her time and you would usually be entitled to a refund of the remaining portion of the retainer.

Scott R. Scherr

The implication of your inquiry is that the lawyer has been sitting on your case for 4 1/2 months with no reasonable explanation for the lawyer's inactivity. I am assuming that is so for purposes of providing an answer. If you have a right to demand a refund, you may have to ask for it.

Robert L. Flanagan

If it is clearly a retainer fee, all unused portions of the retainer fee, at the end of the engagement, should be returned to the client. Talk to the attorney and ask them why the delay (if any) for the case. The attorney has an obligation to communicate with you if you reach out to that attorney.

Can you get your Money Back from the Lawyer?

If you fire a lawyer with whom you have paid an initial retainer, he or she is entitled to be refunded any money left in their account after the date of termination.

How to get back Money from the Lawyer?

When you plan to hire a lawyer, you want to get legal guidance and assistance to help you with the issue you face. Whether you are dealing with a criminal prosecution or a financial creditor, your lawyer is liable and responsible for helping you for your lifetime.

Frequently Asked Questions

A lawyer, also known as a counselor, barrister, is an individual who is practicing after studying law education. A lawyer has a law degree and has an official license to practice law in a specific area or field. Lawyers are also accountable for preparing legal documents like contracts, wills, deeds, documents for real estate matters, and many more.


To wrap up the article on how you can get the money back from your lawyer, it will not be incorrect to mention that there is no surety that you can get the money from your lawyer.

Frank Wei-Hong Chen

Reasonably, it might take an attorney or law firm 30 to 45 days to prepare a final invoice and refund any balance left. However, you seem to indicate that the attorney did not do anything, and moreover, that you already requested an invoice several months ago. Therefore, I think you...

Pamela Koslyn

Before you complain against the lawyer either to the State Bar or in a malpractice suit, are you sure your emails and messages have been received? Have you sent anything in writing to this lawyer unequivocally firing them, demanding an itemized invoice and immediate transmittal of the contents of your file (State Rules of Professsional Conduct prohibit them from withholding your file, even if hyou owe....

How often should an attorney keep a retainer?

All amounts for time and charges are taken from the retainer, and the attorney should give you an accounting of activities each month, including the amount left on the retainer.

Why do you pay an attorney on retainer?

For example, you may want an employment attorney on retainer to help you deal with issues that come up with employees. A retaining fee is a deposit or lump-sum you pay in advance.

What Is Included in a Retainer Agreement?

There is no such thing as a "typical" retainer agreement, but some common features are included in most:

How does a retainer trust work?

Attorneys are legally and ethically obligated to deposit your retainer fee in special trust accounts, not in their business accounts. An attorney will then transfer funds from that account into her business account periodically as the case progresses—usually on a monthly basis.

How do attorneys set their fees?

Attorneys set their fees based on a number of factors, including the amount of work the attorney will need to do for your case and the complexity of the case. Some factors that determine the amount of the fees are: 1 The billing rates for each level of professional working for your business, based on each person's experience, specialty area, and their level (partner, associate, paralegal, for example) 2 Novelty and complexity of the issues 3 The difficulty of problems encountered 4 The extent of the responsibility involved 5 The result achieved, and 6 The efficiency of the work, and customary fees for similar legal services. 1 

Why is retainer arrangement important?

The retainer arrangement is also beneficial for the client because it provides an estimated budget for legal fees.

What is retainer in accounting?

Retainer. A retainer is a down payment on expenses and fees. 2 

What to do if an attorney claims they have earned the entire fee?

If the attorney claims they have earned the entire fee and is steadfast about keeping your money , the bar association could help you arrange mediation with the attorney in hopes of ironing out the disagreement.

What do you expect from an attorney?

When you hire an attorney, you expect their legal advice and guidance to assist you with whatever problem you are facing. Whether you are dealing with a creditor or facing criminal prosecution, your attorney is supposed to be your lifeline.

Can the bar discipline an attorney?

Additionally, the bar could discipline an attorney if they wrongfully keep a client’s fee. In extreme cases, this sort of financial malfeasance could result in the suspension of an attorney’s license. Given what is at stake, contacting the bar association could be your best option for seeing your money returned.

Do attorneys use flat fees?

Instead, attorneys use flat or hourly fees for their billing. Hourly fees are ripe for disagreements, as many attorneys require a retainer to be paid upfront. The retainer represents a pool of money paid to your attorney for fees they have not yet earned.

How to get a refund from an attorney?

This is an informal process in which both the attorney and client present their positions before a neutral third party who decides the matter for them. Alternatively, you can file a claim for money due in court. Depending on the amount at issue, small claims court might be a good option. If the amount in question is large, consider retaining another lawyer to advise you.

What happens if you lose a contingency agreement?

In a contingency arrangement, you pay no fees up front, and if you lose, you owe your attorney nothing. If you win, however, the attorney retains a set percentage as his fee. Since you do not give the lawyer any money up front, you cannot demand a refund if you fire the attorney before trial. On the other hand, if you replace him with another attorney and continue the litigation, he may and probably will claim part of any attorney fees won by your new counsel.

What is retainer fee?

A retainer fee is a prepaid fee used as a guarantee of commitment from professionals, such as lawyers, attorneys, consultants, advisors, and freelancers. It is most familiar in the context of legal services because you pay it when hiring a lawyer and signing a legally binding contract with them. The retainer fee doesn’t guarantee ...

What is earned retainer?

The earned retainer fee is a certain portion of the retainer that your lawyer is entitled to at the beginning of their work. The fee is deposited to the lawyer’s trust fund, and it’s usually billed by the hour for the work done. It can also be distributed for legal tasks, additional materials, and other court fees.

What to do if your lawyer refuses to refund you?

If your lawyer decides to ignore you and declines your refund request, you can turn to DoNotPay for help. We can get you a refund from anyone, even companies that don’t give refunds. You have a 98% chance of successfully getting a refund with us by your side. Open our app in any web browser and do the following:

What to do if your lawyer denies your refund request?

If they deny your refund request, you can file a complaint with the Bar Council that your lawyer is a member of.

How to get a refund from a lawyer?

The best way to get a refund is to ask your lawyer directly—you can either send a letter or call them at the office. See if you can set up a meeting to discuss the termination of your agreement and your refund payment.

Can you get a refund for a retainer fee?

The retainer fee doesn’t guarantee a successful outcome. If you are displeased with your provider’s services, you can request a refund for the retainer fee in no time at all with DoNotPay.

Is a lawyer's fee refundable?

These fees are refundable if there’s any remaining balance after the lawyer withdraws their fee.


Can You Get Your Money Back from The Lawyer?

  • If you fire a lawyer with whom you have paid an initial retainer, he or she is entitled to be refunded any money left in their account after the date of termination. Once fired and before preparing a final accounting for services rendered as well as delivering it formally (or at least orally), this attorney must provide his/her client with either w...
See more on

How to Get Back Money from The Lawyer?

Frequently Asked Questions