What is a Retainer? Why Do I Have to Pay One?
A retainer, in the legal sense, is an up-front fee paid by a potential client to ‘’retain” or hold the time and expenses an attorney may need to litigate a case properly. The definition of payment by retainer provided by the Legal Information Institute is “A fee that the client pays up-front to an attorney before the attorney has begun work for the client.” A specific outcome is not guaranteed, but rather the attorney will be working on the client’s behalf until an outcome is reached. There are three types of retainers:
- Retaining fee: an up-front retaining fee held by the attorney in a trust account. Expenses, hourly costs, etc., are calculated upon completion of the case or the discharging of the attorney. The exact amount of time and expenses will be totaled. If the retainer has been insufficient, the client will pay the difference. If there is money left over, most attorneys (but not all) will return the unused portion. Here is a question you will want to ask an attorney when you are looking to hire one. The attorney will provide a detailed cost analysis of your case so you can see how your money was spent.
- General: Instead of paying for a specific project, the client pays for a certain number of hours projected to handle the case.
- Special retainer: a flat or specific fee is charged to cover the cost of handling the case completely. There will be no money returned, even if there is money “leftover” as this fee is for the entire completion of the case, no matter how little or how much time and expenses are used. If you decide to discharge the attorney before the case is finished, any money left will not be returned. Sometimes the client comes out ahead if the case takes more time and has unanticipated expenses over and above the special retainer.
Having what a retainer is explained, we now look at why a retainer should be paid. Unfortunately, the days of a “handshake” are basically over. There are just too many incidences of folks taking advantage of a situation and then leaving without paying. Attorney’s have gone to school for many years and worked hard to become licensed to practice law. They are entitled to be paid and need to be paid to support themselves and cover the costs of running a law firm. Even those attorneys working in a large conglomerate law firm have expenses. Additionally, there will be filing fees, mediation, and if mediation fails, court costs, and a variety of cost bearing expenses such as office expenses and hiring of expert witnesses. Attorneys should not be expected to go unpaid. They don’t work for free. If you have questions about retainers, Family Law attorney Grant Gisondo can answer His office is Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. He knows how important it is for clients to understand the legal terminology connected with a case. To help answer questions, Attorney Gisondo offers a free, initial, in-office consultation for folks living in Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie, Miami-Dade, Broward, Orange, and Hillsborough in Florida and in New York and Washington, DC. His office hours are Monday through Friday from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM and, for new clients, Saturdays from 8:30 AM to 1:00 PM. His office phone number is (561) 536-4568 to make an appointment.