what is a retainer with a lawyer

by Prof. Gaylord Medhurst 4 min read

There are generally three types of retainers:

  • A general retainer: This contracts the attorney’s services for a specific duration as opposed to a specific case/project.
  • A retaining fee: This refers to a lump-sum deposit paid into a trust account in advance. ...
  • A special retainer: This is a fixed lump-sum amount paid to a lawyer to take on a particular case/project. ...

Retainers are a type of compensation agreement with lawyers either for reserving their employment or as compensation for future services. General retainers are the traditional type of retainers where a lawyer agrees to handle a case or future issues that arise for a client.

Full Answer

What to expect when you hire an attorney on retainer?

What to Expect When You Hire a Lawyer

  • Guidelines to Keep in Mind When Hiring a Lawyer. Brian: Always be aware of the agreement you entered into. ...
  • Red Flags. Shant: At the end of the case, with large settlements or verdicts, often the client’s net recover can be put into a “structure” or an annuity, which can ...
  • A Few Final Thoughts. ...

What does it mean to put a lawyer on retainer?

“Lawyer on Retainer” Definition In essence, having a lawyer on retainer (also called an attorney on retainer) means having an established lawyer-client relationship with a lawyer. Essentially, in exchange for upfront fees, you are “holding” your lawyer.

Is it worth having a lawyer on retainer?

Possibly the biggest advantage of having an attorney on retainer is the fact that paying an attorney a monthly retainer fee entitles you to priority service when it comes to obtaining legal advice or having documents drawn up. Being at the front of the queue means your legal work will be performed more efficiently and with less hassle.

How much is a typical retainer fee for a lawyer?

It is standard operating procedure for a lawyer to get an advance on their fees (known as a retainer.) These usually cost between $2,000 to $5,000. Around 90% of our respondents said they paid a retainer upon hiring their new divorce attorney.


What is the benefit of having a lawyer on retainer?

Perhaps the most apparent benefit of establishing a retainer agreement with an attorney is having the comfort of immediate legal advice at your fingertips. If you deal with legal issues frequently, a retainer agreement keeps a close line between you and your attorney if questions arise that require immediate attention.

What does it mean when a lawyer is on retainer?

When someone threatens to call “their” lawyer, it likely means that they have a lawyer "on retainer." To have a lawyer on retainer means that you – the client – pay a lawyer a small amount on a regular basis. In return, the lawyer performs specific legal services whenever you need them.

What is the purpose of a retainer fee?

A retainer fee is an amount of money paid upfront to secure the services of a consultant, freelancer, lawyer, or other professional. A retainer fee is most commonly paid to individual third parties that have been engaged by the payer to perform a specific action on their behalf.

Is a retainer fee refundable?

Most frequently, the client agrees to a security or an advanced payment retainer where payment for services is drawn from the monies held in trust. Here's the kicker—only the true retainer is non-refundable. Unearned funds from either a security or advanced payment retainer must be refunded at the end of the work.

Is a retainer fee a deposit?

In a definitive sense, a retainer is a fee that is paid in advance in order to hold services (ie. a wedding or event date). While a deposit may also reserve a date, it is returned when the services have been completed. A retainer is by default non-refundable and is not returned.

How long is a lawyer retainer good for?

A lawyer cannot claim the retainer fee until they have completed work and provided an invoice to the client. The retainer is still the possession of the client until used for legitimate expenses as detailed in the retainer agreement. The amount in the trust account will not expire.

How does a retainer work?

Being on retainer means that you're "on-call" for a specified number of hours each week or month. The client agrees to pay you for these hours, whether he gives you work or not. Usually, service providers offer clients a reduced hourly rate for the security offered by being on retainer.

How much does a retainer cost?

Typically, retainers can cost anywhere from $250 to $600 per set without insurance. The final cost will largely depend on whether you choose a permanent or removable retainer, the specific circumstances of your treatment, and which orthodontic practice provides your treatment.

How do you price a retainer?

For example, the attorney may project that he will spend 10 hours, at an hourly rate of $100, amounting to a $1,000 retainer fee. If in the first month, the lawyer spends four hours on the case, he will charge $400 against the $1,000 retainer fee, leaving a balance of $600.

How much is a retainer fee for a lawyer?

Overview. A retainer fee can be any denomination that the attorney requests. It may be as low as $500 or as high as $5,000 or more. Some attorneys base retainer fees on their hourly rate multiplied by the number of hours that they anticipate your case will take.

How do you know if your lawyer is selling you out?

Signs of a Bad LawyerBad Communicators. Communication is normal to have questions about your case. ... Not Upfront and Honest About Billing. Your attorney needs to make money, and billing for their services is how they earn a living. ... Not Confident. ... Unprofessional. ... Not Empathetic or Compassionate to Your Needs. ... Disrespectful.

What Are The Benefits of retainers?

A client may choose to pay using a retainer fee in order to demonstrate that they are serious about their case and wish to retain the lawyer’s serv...

Are There Other Types of Fees?

While retainer fees are the more traditional way of paying for legal services, another common type of payment is called a contingency fee.This type...

What Are Unearned and Earned Retainer Fees?

"Unearned" retainer fees refers to the money that is placed in the retainer account before the lawyer has earned them. This would be the “allowance...

What Is A Retainer Fee Dispute?

The most common dispute is with “leftover’ funds. This occurs when attorneys fail to return the leftover funds in a timely manner, or the relations...

Why do lawyers use retainers?

In return, the lawyer performs some legal services whenever the client needs them. Retainers are most useful for business that need constant legal work, but do not have enough money to hire a lawyer full time. Also, individuals who are likely to need a lot of legal work might want to have a lawyer on retainer.

What is a retainer agreement?

When a lawyer is "retained," that means that someone has hired her, and the money paid to the attorney is known as the retainer. The agreement signed when someone hires an attorney is called the retainer agreement.

Do I need to pay an attorney for an accident?

Most insurance policies, including auto and homeowner's insurance, will pay for an attorney should you be involved in an accident. If this is so, there is no need to pay an attorney as additional insurance against these lawsuits. Check your employee benefits. If you are an employee of a large company, or a member of a union, ...

Can I pay a lawyer on call?

If you are an employee of a large company, or a member of a union, a lawyer on call may be part of your benefits. These attorneys can handle most routine legal matters, such as wills and real estate transactions, as well as certain law suits. Paying another lawyer on retainer when you already have one through your employer usually does not make ...

What Is a Retainer Agreement With A Lawyer?

The word “retainer” can have different meanings depending on the setting. A physician may use the term to describe an agreement with an HMO whereby he agrees to provide care at no charge until annual benefits are exhausted; after that, the HMO will be responsible for reimbursing the physician at a pre-negotiated rate.

What to Consider Before Hiring an Attorney on Retainer?

If you are interested in hiring an attorney on retainer, stop thinking about your legal situation.

How does the Retainer Agreement Work?

Though there is no single framework, “how does the retainer agreement work?” It typically goes on like a party or a contract that pays some dollars every month. In exchange for locking those hours, the client will pay advance dollars so that the retained attorney may start the legal services with full interest.

Benefits of Retainer Agreements

From the contractor’s view, a retained agreement is a guaranteed income. Many lawyers and freelancers work at retaining agreements, which means a lot of retained and guaranteed income based on your working hours.

Types of Professional Services Retainer Agreements

A retainer agreement may be of two kinds according to its usage and procedure:

What is a Retainer Fee?

Retainer fees are done according to attorneys’ services for the clients. Does it depend on how much time a retainer is spending for the client? It may be as low as $500 or as high as $5000 or more.

How to Negotiate a Retainer Agreement?

Negotiating a retainer for an agreement is a tough and time-consuming task as both sides should implement rules. Committing to what has been negotiated at the beginning of the agreement is another issue. Let’s deal with value; how can we understand this:

What is retainer agreement?

A retainer is a fee paid to a person (usually a lawyer) before any services have been performed. Most lawyers require a retainer agreement, which is also known as a “work for hire” contract. This document typically includes the type of work the attorney is doing for the client, all associated fees, and the general rights ...

Where is retainer money placed?

Usually, the money from a retainer fee is placed in a separate account from the lawyer’s personal funds. This ensures that the lawyer will not use the money for their own purposes before services are actually rendered. Additionally, all expenses and hours worked are entered with descriptions and provided to the client.

Can a lawyer touch unearned money?

The lawyer is not entitled to touch this money until they have documented “earned” fees that include logged hours, materials, or additional overcost fees. A well written retainer fee agreement will be clear about how unearned and earned monies are defined.

What is retainer in legal?

Retainer. A contract between attorney and client specifying the nature of the services to be rendered and the cost of the services. Retainer also denotes the fee that the client pays when employing an attorney to act on her behalf. When a client retains an attorney to act for her, the client thereby prevents the attorney from acting ...

What is a right to retainer?

A right to retainer refers to the authority by which the executor or administrator of the estate of a deceased person reserves out of the assets an amount sufficient to pay any debt due to him from the deceased in priority to the other creditors whose debts are of equal degree.

What is retainer agreement?

Commonly in matters which will involve extensive work there will be a retainer agreement signed by the attorney and client. Further payments for services can be expected as the time spent on the legal matter increase. Most lawyers do not want to be owed money, and wish to paid either in advance or promptly as the work is performed. One reason for the retainer and the problem a lawyer faces is that he/she does not want to abandon a client, but at the same time does not want to be stuck with extensive unpaid fees.

What is the meaning of "retain" in estate law?

Where the estate is solvent an executor may of course retain for the whole of his debt, with interest. RETAINER, practice. The act of a client, by which he engages an attorney or counsellor to manage a cause, either by prosecuting it, when he is plaintiff, or defending it, when he is defendant. 2.

Why do lawyers not want to be owed money?

One reason for the retainer and the problem a lawyer faces is that he/she does not want to abandon a client, but at the same time does not want to be stuck with extensive unpaid fees.

Can a sole executor retain a judgment?

A sole executor may retain in those cases where, if the debt had been due to a stranger, such stranger might have sued the executor and recovered judgment; or where the executor might, in the due administration of the estate , have paid the same. 3 Burr. 1380.

What does it mean to have an attorney on retainer?

Having an attorney on retainer means that you’re paying an attorney a specific advanced legal fee in order to retain (obtain) attorneys legal help in the event of legal troubles. Once an attorney is retained and a retainer fee is paid, the attorney is on standby to assist you with the legal issues for which you’ve retained the attorney.

What is retainer fee?

A retainer fee is one of the most common attorney fee schedules. A retainer is an amount of money that’s paid to a lawyer in advance to retain (hire) him/her to represent you in a legal matter. When setting a retainer fee, an attorney anticipates the amount of legal work that must be done and asks the client to either pay it in full ...

What is the clause in a retainer fee agreement?

Many retainer fee agreements contain a clause that asks the client to give up his right to a jury trial and to settle any claims between an attorney and a client by an arbitrator.

What happens if you exceed your retainer fee?

If the attorney incurs costs that exceed the retainer fee, he will charge you an overage to cover what wasn’t covered by the retainer fee. To know what’s covered by your retainer fee agreement, you should go over the contract itself as it will set out the terms. Asking a general question, such as what does my retainer fee agreement cover is not ...

What is attorney-client relationship?

Also, as soon as a retainer agreement is executed, an attorney-client relationship is usually formed, allowing the client to leverage the attorney’s name or the name of his law firm as the name of the entity representing him in the legal matter. Having the name of a well-known attorney gives the client leverage when negotiating, for example, ...

What happens if a client does not pay the attorney?

If the client does not pay promptly, the attorney or law firm representing the client can place a lien on any recovery, property, or documents that are within the attorney’s possession, allowing him to retain the property until the client pays the overdue balance.

When do you withdraw your retainer fee?

Attorneys typically withdraw the funds from the trust account at the end of the month.

What is the purpose of a legal retainer?

A retainer is the client’s way of guaranteeing to the lawyer that the client is financially able to employ the lawyer’s services and is committed to funding the matter. The retainer still belongs to the client until it is earned by the attorney or used for legitimate expenses, and must be returned if unused.

Do lawyers keep retainers?

The amount serves as a guarantee by the client to pay the attorney upon completion of the agreed work. The attorney cannot claim the retainer fee until he has completed the work and invoiced the client. Any remaining retainer fee after paying the hourly attorney fees should be returned to the client.

How does a retainer agreement work?

A retainer agreement is a contract wherein a client pays another professional in advance for work to be specified at a later point in time. In exchange, that professional agrees to make himself available to that client for a certain number of hours within a predetermined timeframe.

Is a retainer the same as a deposit?

As you know, the words “retainer” and “deposit” are used interchangeably. … In a definitive sense, a retainer is a fee that is paid in advance in order to hold services (ie. a wedding or event date). While a deposit may also reserve a date, it is returned when the services have been completed.

How do lawyers get money for retainers?

An attorney may accept a credit card as a form of payment for a retainer, but the entire fee must be put onto the account. Using a credit card may be a good option if the interest on the card is low. A credit card may be easier to pay back than a personal loan.

How much is a clear retainer?

Clear plastic retainers have become more and more popular and are used more often than Hawley retainers. Average cost varies from about $100 to $285 for one tray (upper or lower).29 мая 2018 г.

Do lawyer retainers expire?

At no time does the retainer stop being your money and refundable on demand, unless the attorney has outstanding invoices to bill against it.

What is a general retainer?

A general retainer contracts the attorney for a specific period instead of a specific project. During this time, the client can expect the lawyer to be available for discussion or questions about legal matters, or sometimes to guarantee priority attention. A retaining fee is a single deposit or lump sum fee the client pays in advance ...

What are the terms of a retainer agreement?

Other terms of a retainer agreement may include: 1 Means for fee arbitration, in case of a dispute 2 Expectations for client cooperation and communication 3 Right for the attorney to withdraw 4 Right for the client to terminate 5 Whether any associates, paralegals or contract lawyers will be needed and their expenses 6 No guarantee of the result 7 Privacy policy of the lawyer and law firm, including action over property and files of the client after the case 8 Conflict checks

How are retainers established?

Retainers are established by entering into a retainer agreement — a formal document that details the obligations, terms and expectations of the attorney-client relationship, and may specify retainer fees, contact rules or methods, or basic expectations. Retainer agreements often vary in length and content depending on the terms of the retainer. However, there are essential parts of a retainer agreement which you can typically expect, regardless of jurisdiction or type of case.

What is retainer fee?

The retainer fee is the amount charged to the client. The agreement must show the basis of the fee in detail. When appropriate, specific examples can be written down. For example, this includes flat fees for certain cases or projects.