Legal-RetainersA retainer is an initial payment, expected to be paid by a client to a lawyer, usually in court proceedings but also in out-of-court, complex matters that take a longer time to complete.

The amount of a retainer varies depending on the legal service to be provided, and the particular law firm. Lawyers ask for monetary retainers up front to secure uninterrupted representation.

In particular, in a court case, when a lawyer becomes “solicitor of the record”, the retainer serves as security for services being paid when rendered and billed. Although a client may terminate the relationship with his or her lawyer at any time and for whatever reason, the solicitor of the record does not have the same freedom. A lawyer cannot remove himself or herself from the record without the court’s permission and only for a valid reason.

A retainer paid is deposited in the lawyer’s trust account and it is the client’s money until a lawyer renders an interim or final bill for services rendered.

Lawyers, in most court cases, represent their clients on a full legal representation basis which means that the lawyer is retained and will represent a client throughout the case from the start to the end. Clients may not see the amount of work that is done on their case. Attending appointments, communicating with the lawyer through other means such as telephone, e-mail and fax are only part of the work involved. The advice the client receives, and representation in court that the lawyer provides, requires oftentimes extensive preparation, negotiations, fact finding, searching for evidence and continuous education. This may prove to be expensive.

Limited Retainers

In our society nobody likes to pay legal bills and the typical family cannot afford a full service lawyer.

In most cases I will represent a client in court in a full service capacity, but I can also offer unbundled services.

Unbundled services mean I represent a client on an hourly basis without a retainer paid up front. In these cases I will:

– Assist a client during an appointment
– Discuss and analyze issues and present a client with legal options
– Explain court procedures
– Assist in preparation of court documents
– Advise about the court deadlines and timelines.

With this approach the client is more equipped to pursue the case on their own without formal representation.

These limited retainers are charged on an hourly basis for time spent on in-office consultations. In these instances the client understands that I won’t be the “solicitor of the record.” I will not attend court with the client during the court process. This approach is much less expensive.

From time to time, if a client requests, I may appear in court in a limited capacity, e.g. for a conference or for a motion to assist at some stage of the court proceedings.

The scope of the representation based on a limited retainer has to be strictly delineated. I can only advise on issues and only on the facts drawn to my attention during the appointment.