What's a Retainer?

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What's a Retainer?

In the legal system, a retainer is a type of advanced fee paid from the client to their lawyer or prospective lawyer. It is similar to a down payment that indicates that the client is serious about hiring that particular lawyer. The rest of the payment for the lawsuit is often paid through a contingency fee, which may be based on the outcome of the legal case.

When Are Retainers Formed?

The way it works is that the client pays the retainer fee to the lawyer, which is then placed in a special account. The fee secures the lawyer’s services, and the lawyer may then draw from that account as the case proceeds, in order to pay for various costs associated with the case. All of this happens before the case actually begins.

Are Retainers Refundable?

Retainers are usually non-refundable and non-negotiable once an agreement is signed. This means that if the person loses their case, they can’t try and have the retainer fee amount refunded to them. Thus, the person should be very sure that their case has a good chance of succeeding before proceeding with their case.

This is also true if the person decides to fire their lawyer and hire a different one in the middle of litigation. If this happens, they usually won’t be able to get their retainer fee back. Thus, it’s important to choose carefully when hiring a lawyer.

What If a Retainer Is Violated?

Retainer agreements can be violated in many ways. The most common way is when the attorney uses the retainer funds for their own personal use. The retainer fee payments are supposed to be kept in a separate account to avoid the personal use of such funds. This can result in a dispute between the lawyer and client. If the violation causes the client losses, the lawyer may need to pay for the damages created by their violation.

Should I Hire a Lawyer for Help with Retainer Issues?

Legal disputes can often occur regarding retainer fees and agreements. You may need legal representation if you need help drafting, reviewing, or litigating a retainer fee agreement. Your attorney can provide you with the legal advice you need for your issue, and can inform you of the various legal options available for your situation.

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Last Modified: 03-13-2014 11:39 AM PDT

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