Hiring an Attorney-What is a Retainer Fee?


When I quote prices to my clients, I always explain a retainer fee. Most people do not understand it because they have never hired an attorney before.

Most attorneys require a retainer fee up front.  The client pays the retainer fee, determined by the attorney based on the facts of the client’s case.  That money then goes to an attorney trust account. Attorneys are charged with protecting that money and it can only be used to pay for expenses, legal fees or reimburse the client.  If we don’t protect our client’s money-we could lose our law license!

In our office, the process works like this: I send a bill to you, my client, letting you know how much time and money has been spent on your case. You do not send money, instead, I pull that money from your trust account to pay for your fees. When that retainer fee is depleted, it is your responsibility to pay another retainer fee. 

If your entire retainer fee is not spent by the time your case ends, you are entitled to that money back.  Attorneys do not get to keep a retainer fee for legal services that were not performed.

As I said, the retainer fee depends on the complexity of your case. Retainer fees are usually higher if your case is in Court or expected to go to Court because preparing for trial can be expensive.

If you hire any attorney, be sure that you have a fee agreement or contract with that attorney outlining both of your responsibilities for payments of the retainer fee and the bills!

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