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Debt Division

Picking a Law Firm 101: Retainers

For most people, the prospect of hiring an attorney may be daunting. The process is likely to cause a fair amount of anxiety and uncertainty. However, as much as people may seek to avoid the legal system, unfortunately, some cases are unavoidable. At this point, many people find themselves in a scary situation–they may need an attorney, but they aren’t familiar enough with the subject to know how to select an attorney or law firm. We see this situation so frequently with potential clients. In an effort to help you in your decision-making process, we’re here to provide you with a few quick tips about retainers that can help you when you begin looking for a law firm.

Cost of the Retainer

Unless you’re sitting on top of oodles of money, the cost is going to be a major component when it comes to comparing potential attorneys and/or firms. Knowing the amount of a potential firm’s retainer is likely going to be among your top considerations. Some firms will require a substantially large retainer and may require you to post additional large retainers throughout your case. Other firms may ask for a smaller retainer and ask that additional deposits be added on a more frequent basis.

At Modern Family Law, we offer a pay-as-you-go arrangement where our retainers operate more like a security deposit.  This lets us ask for a smaller amount up front so you can keep more for your needs.

How Does it Work?

Retainers come in all shapes and varieties. Some firms use the money from a retainer directly. For every dollar deposited by you, the firm bills against that amount. In these situations, the firm will draw against your account until a certain point.  After that, you supply additional money when the account gets low. Or in some instances, these firms may fully deplete the retainer, and then bill you for any subsequent work.

Another type of retainer functions somewhat like a security deposit on an apartment. In these situations, a firm is likely to leave your retainer amount untouched, so long as you pay the bills as they come due. For retainers of this nature, it’s fairly common that the firm will refund to you the retainer amount at the end of your case.

Does the amount of retainer equal the total amount I will spend?  No, it doesn’t. While a retainer does serve as an amount relevant to your case, it almost never is reflective of what the cost of your case will be. Generally speaking, a retainer is an amount required by a firm to begin working on your case. This doesn’t necessarily have any bearing on how much you will end up paying to the firm throughout the life of your case. Instead, it’s the amount that you have to turn over initially in order to secure legal representation.

Understanding Retainers

Sometimes, a case may require the involvement of a legal professional. Should you find yourself needing the help of an attorney, take the time to evaluate the retainer, and consider how the retainer is going to impact you. At Modern Family Law, we specialize in family law. If you need the help of an attorney, contact us today to speak with one of our family law attorneys at no cost to you.

Posted April 12, 2017
by: MFL Team


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