What Does Having a Lawyer On Retainer Mean?


Having a lawyer on a retainer can be a lifesaver if you need legal assistance frequently. The other way to engage a lawyer is to hire one on an ad-hoc basis. However, if you don’t have a lawyer on retainer and you need legal help urgently, you may lose valuable time searching for the right lawyer who is trustworthy. Let’s have a look at what having a lawyer on retainer means. 

1) Different forms of retainer agreements 

There are primarily three types of retainers: 

– A general retainer that contracts the lawyer for a specific period instead of a particular project. During this period, you can expect your lawyer to be available on priority to discuss legal matters.

– A retaining fee is a lump sum fee that you pay in advance to the lawyer. The lawyer will carry out the necessary work and refund you any excess amount after the retainer agreement ends. Such retaining fees typically do not encompass the total cost of legal representation. 

– A special retainer fee is a payment made to a lawyer to take on a specific project or case. Examples of special retainers are those made out to a lawyer to draft a will, prepare the necessary documents for end-of-life planning, or represent you in a criminal case.

2) How does having a lawyer on retainer help you?

One of the most significant benefits of having a lawyer on retainer is the availability of prompt legal advice whenever you need it. If you have to deal with legal matters frequently, a retainer agreement allows you to have a direct line to your lawyer for any questions that need immediate legal attention. This provides you with additional piece of mind as well as security  and can potentially help you protect your rights. For example having a firearm lawyer on retainer when you have a firearm in the house. It also helps you have a good relationship with your lawyer, and you can rest assured that your lawyer will not hesitate in applying their mind to assist you.  

An example of this is the fact that insurance companies usually try to give claimants minimum compensation for any claims to save their bottom line. Having a good relationship with your lawyer or a law firm such as Wyatt Law in San Antonio will ensure that you get proper legal assistance in such scenarios.

3) What are the terms covered in a lawyer retainer agreement?

While there is no boilerplate for a retainer agreement, you should look out for some common features in them, such as: 

– The amount of compensation you’ll pay the lawyer with details of how the fees will be calculated. 

– How the lawyer will be working from the retainer. Typically your lawyer will hold the retainer amount in a trust account and will deduct their fees from that amount after they incur a specific amount of fees.

– Any additional costs such as court costs, travel expenses, copying, postage, etc.

– Billing terms and frequency. Bills are usually sent out by the lawyer every month. These bills should show the cost for the previous month and the amount of the retainer fee that is remaining.

– How any fee disputes will be resolved. Each state has specific regulations that describe how any fee disputes should be handled. A few states permit arbitration to resolve such disputes.

4) What are the benefits of a retainer arrangement?

Both the client and the lawyer benefit from having a retainer arrangement in place. The lawyer is assured about being paid regularly, usually every month. Such an arrangement is helpful for the lawyer if the client is not prompt when it comes to payment. 

A retainer arrangement also benefits the client since they get an estimated budget for his lawyer’s legal fees. As a result, the client can estimate both long-term and short-term legal costs depending upon the terms and duration of the agreement. Perhaps equally important is the fact that having a retainer arrangement with your lawyer ensures you guaranteed access and availability whenever you need legal assistance.