A retainer – defined
In case you think you’ve wandered upon an orthodontic blog, rest assured this type of retainer is the one that gets you the services of a lawyer.
Plain and simple, a retainer is an agreement between a lawyer and his or her client that spells out the services to be performed and the cost of the services. It protects you as the client by making sure the lawyer stays committed to you and also does not choose to represent adversary. It protects the lawyer in that it ensures he or she gets paid for his per her services in a timely manner.
It’s a fixed amount that you agree to pay your lawyer in advance and the payment is not tied to an outcome of the case. You can pay a lawyer a retainer in a single one time payment or on an ongoing basis per month, per quarter or however you arrange with your attorney. The word retainer can also mean the amount of money you’ll pay that lawyer for the services you need.
A retainer versus other forms of payment
Once you find an attorney who’s a good match, you generally have several options to pay him or her for legal services. In addition to the retainer, you can pay by the hour, pay a flat fee or negotiate a contingent fee with your attorney — i.e. where your payment of the attorney is based on the outcome or results. The most common arrangement is the hourly payment where the attorney gets paid by the hour until the case or matter is resolved.
With a retainer, you’re often paying the hourly rate only in advance and allowing your lawyer to put the amount in a special account up front. Then, your lawyer will deduct from that fee as he works for you. You should be sure you get the agreement in writing at the outset and that you review your statements from the lawyer regularly. Once you choose the path of paying your lawyer on retainer, that fee is non refundable unless a court decides later that it was “unreasonable” depending on the divorce laws in your state. And, know going into the arrangement that — if you drop your case before the lawyer finishes the retainer — you could forfeit the rest of the retainer.
If you foresee a legal issue that may take a substantial amount of a lawyer’s time, it may prove to be a good way to go. You can essentially place a lawyer “on call” for you if you establish a retainer, engaging the lawyer when you need one or even apply the retainer if you need a lawyer on a regular basis. You should also be prepared and have a backup plan if you can’t pay the lawyer once your retainer is up and if you still need his or her services. The retainer is definitely worth considering as a payment option because, with good planning, a retainer can help you budget your legal fees at the outset.
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