You should understand the contract with your lawyer. Contracts with lawyers vary, but fit into three main categories – flat fee, contingency, and retainer contracts. This post is about retainer contracts and only provides a brief overview. If you have a contract with a lawyer, or are thinking of signing one, make sure to understand that specific contract.
Retainer contracts require an upfront amount, the retainer, to be placed with the law firm. This goes into a trust account. That money is held in trust until it is used by the lawyer working on your case and billing his or her time. Sometimes expenses are also paid out of the trust retainer. Expenses might include filing fees, service fees, copy fees and/or costs for depositions to name a few examples.
Some retainers have evergreen clauses, which state when your retainer hits a certain level, you must refill the retainer. This makes sure that there is always an amount with the firm to cover time and expenses.
Most firms send out billing statements once a month. The statements should tell you what was done during the past month on your case, how much it cost, and how much is left in the trust account.
Retainer contracts are commonly used in cases where the amount of time needed to pursue the case and/or the monetary payoff is uncertain and can vary greatly. Family law lawyers normally use retainer contracts.
Always make sure you read the contract you will be signing, and if you have questions, ask. The lawyer you work with wants you to understand that contract so that there is no misunderstanding later. The lawyer wants to fight for you, not fight with you.
Fee Contracts: Contract with Lawyers (2 of 3)
Contingency Fee Contracts: Contracts with Lawyers (3 of 3)