It is common for a person seeking the services of a lawyer to pay a retainer ("retainer fee") to the lawyer, to see a case through to its conclusion. The scope is usually for the case, and not for anything afterward like appeals.
The most common use of the term retainer refers to an amount of money you pay an attorney for him/her to bill their hourly rate against as the case progresses. When the retainer is depleted to a specified extent you will have to provide more money for the attorney to continue working. Initial retainers are often not sufficient to litigate a entire case to conclusion and would almost never pay for an appeal.
The terms of your agreement should be in writing with the attorney and should explain exactly how he/she will be paid. These are great questions to ask the attorney you are considering hiring.
Though we strive to provide accurate legal information in our answers on AVVO, our answer should not be construed as legal advice and it does not create an attorney-client relationship. Our firm only forms attorney-client relationships by written agreement signed by both our firm and the client. Please seek an in-person consultation with an attorney immediately as almost all legal matters are time sensitive and failing to meet deadlines can result in adverse consequences.
Retainer agreements must be in writing. The scope of the retainer can vary, but it must be outlined in the written agreement.
Retainers can be for any work done by an attorney, drafting a contract, performing a title search, writing a will, pretrial work, case evaluation, client counseling, trial work, appeals, and much more.
Retainers might be for:
1. A flat fee.
2. More than the anticipated cost, in which case the client will get the balance back.
3. Less than the anticipated cost, and the client will need to replenish the retainer to continue with the attorney.
It is a contract for services from the attorney, it can vary based on what the two parties agree to.
A retainer is a deposit for services yet to be rendered. Yes, the retainer can differ from case to case, and from type of case, and will also differ depending upon whether the case is billed out hourly or as a flat fee. It is not necessarily true that the retainer will take the client all the way through the case and very often does not. Some retainers are immediate compensation for the attorney's commitment to perform future services on behalf of the client Many attorneys furnish an engagement agreement which spells out how the retainer will be used and whether it must be replenished if it falls below a certain level.