Simply speaking, retaining a lawyer is useful and required when you require continual legal work but cannot afford to have a full time lawyer. But before you hire a lawyer on retainer you should stop awhile and consider about the legal situation. You must ask a few questions like what will you use the lawyer for and for how much. If it is for accidents which happens unexpectedly but not on a regular basis, then retaining a lawyer will not be a wise decision, financially.
Check Few Aspects First
You must check few other aspects before you consider retaining lawyer so that you can make an educated and well-informed decision.
- Check on the insurance policies as most of them including auto and homeowner’s insurance, will include attorney fees. If so, there is no need.
- Check on with the employee benefits as well. For an employee of a large company the lawyer on call is an automatic benefit provided. If it is so, then aping another with retainer when you already have one will make no sense
You must not get confused with the terms “retainer” or “retainer agreement.” A lawyer on retainer means that someone has hired her and retainer agreement is the signed document when you hire a lawyer.
The Retainer Fee
There are different kinds of retainers. General retainers are those who are available to offer their services and the special retainers are usually the security from which the payment is deducted when it is earned. It is more like an advanced fee for future work. Though this advanced fee retainer structure is very similar to the flat fee principle, ideally, the retainer amount reflects a number of billable hours at an hourly rate.
The parameters must be explained explicitly and the following questions considered:
- If retainer means securing the availability of the lawyer then what is the actual amount paid for the services rendered?
- If it is a security from which the earned fee is deducted then how do you know that the work is completed?
- What happens when such retainer fee is depleted?
- What should be the amount for replenishment?
- Whether there are any benchmarks to reach before it can be replenished?
- If it is an advanced fee then what are the jobs that are covered?
Few Ethical Considerations
There are few ethical practices that should be considered during retainer as well. For advanced fees any unearned portions should be returned to the client. There must be a time record maintained for the work performed. Finally, fees for a lawyer should be reasonable and pre-determined. And most importantly the proposed fee agreement should comply with the set rules of your state.
In A Nutshell
Retainer fee is an amount paid up front before the attorney starts working on a case. This money is secured in a spate account which is not the operating account of the lawyer. As the case progresses the lawyer bills his time against it. Invoices are sent at the end of each month that will include office visits, drafting documents and telephone calls.