If you’ve ever searched for an attorney, you probably know how difficult it can be—after all, with so many choices out there, it takes quite a bit of effort to find the one that’s right for you. But doing the research is not always the most difficult task you’ll face as you hunt for legal representation. Once you’ve made your selection, you’ll also need to consider the cost of hiring an attorney and, in most cases, pay a retainer fee in order to retain his or her services.
What’s a retainer fee? Basically, it’s a down payment for your legal expenses. Although the exact amount of the fee will vary according to the attorney’s standard billing rate—and whether he or she charges an hourly or flat fee—your retainer fee will be applied to your account in the form of a credit. Any future costs you incur will then be deducted from this amount.
As you can probably guess, if your attorney charges an hourly rate, you will be billed according to the amount of time he or she spends working on your case. However, if a flat fee is applied, you will pay a fixed amount for the attorney’s services. In turn, the amount you are expected to pay for your retainer fee is determined by the type of billing methods your attorney utilizes.
In most cases, once you remit a retainer fee to your attorney, it is non-refundable—regardless of whether you decide to have him or represent you. As a result, you should be certain that you want to retain the attorney’s services before you agree to pay him or her any type of retainer fee.
To make sure you know what to expect when your final bill is due, make sure you receive a detailed fee schedule prior to hiring an attorney for your case. This document should include a full list of any potential costs you may incur, as well as an explanation of the firm’s policy regarding retainer fees.
Finally, for more information about retainer fees, you may want to check the laws in your area. For example, many states limit the amount you are required to pay, while some jurisdictions even require you to get your attorney’s retainer fee approved by a judge before you submit the payment.