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10.0 What is a Retainer?

A very common question that a potential client will ask an attorney is “How much do you
charge for my type of case?” The response will always be “It depends.” There are several legal matters where an attorney will require a retainer to cover the attorney’s hourly fees. A retainer is a specified lump sum of money that must be paid in full before the attorney can begin to work on the case. The entire retainer is deposited in a special bank account called a trust account. A client should think of the trust account as something similar to a savings account because the retainer is money that belongs to the client, not the attorney.

How an attorney gets paid from a retainer is simple. As the attorney works on the client’s
case, the attorney will bill the client for the time spent on the case. At the same time, the
attorney will notify the client that a payment will be withdrawn from that “savings account” after a reasonable time has passed to allow the client review the invoice. This means that the amount the attorney has worked on the client’s case will be subtracted from the retainer amount in trust. As the retainer amount gets low, the attorney may ask that the client replenish the retainer back to its initial amount. At the end of the representation, any money not used will be returned to the client.

A retainer agreement is a contract between the attorney and client that specifically states
the scope of the attorney’s representation, a attorney’s fees, the retainer requested, and other such things. Be sure that your attorney goes over the retainer agreement so that you are fully informed as to what your retainer fee covers and how you will be billed. A client should get monthly invoices that show how the client’s money is being used. The client has an opportunity to dispute any charges on the invoice before moneys are withdrawn from the retainer in trust.

Retainers are commonly used in family law and criminal matters. If you have a question
about a situation that you are facing and would like to consult with an attorney please feel free to call our office. Schedule a consultation and we will be able to go over our retainer agreement and fee amounts with you.

Kimberly Saxton and Associates, PLLC
101 N McDowell St. Suite #126
Charlotte, NC 28204