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What Does It Mean to Have an Attorney on Retainer?

What Does It Mean to Have an Attorney on Retainer

It’s likely you’ve heard of someone having “a lawyer on retainer,” but do you really know what this phrase means? More importantly, are you someone who should have a lawyer on retainer?

“Lawyer on Retainer” Definition

In essence, having a lawyer on retainer (also called an attorney on retainer) means having an established lawyer-client relationship with a lawyer. Essentially, in exchange for upfront fees, you are “holding” your lawyer. Then, in the event that you require legal assistance or representation, you will be able to call on that lawyer for their legal help.

Understanding Retainer Agreements

Not all client-lawyer retainer relationships are the same. Generally speaking, you can choose between several different types of agreements when retaining an attorney.

For instance, you can deposit a sum (one that is allocated as your retainer fee) into an account in your lawyer’s possession. If you end up needing legal assistance after this account has been established, any billable hours will be pulled from that fund. Naturally, an account like this won’t likely cover all of the expenses you accrue when using the services of a lawyer. On the other hand, the set-aside account allows you more instant access to your lawyer’s services because you would already have established a relationship with them.

You can also form a general retainer relationship with a lawyer. This is a contract that is usually arranged around a specific project. Instead of your lawyer billing you for the precise hours they work on a given project/your case, your lawyer would simply be available at basically all times to answer your legal questions and discuss your legal options with you as they relate to the project.

Similarly, you can put a lawyer on retainer for a set period of time. In this way, instead of the lawyer being available for the duration of the project you’re working on, he or she will be available until the end of your agreed-upon period.

Who Needs a Lawyer on Retainer?

Not everyone needs a lawyer on retainer, but it may — at some point in your life — be a valuable legal arrangement to utilize. For instance, if you are in the midst of signing business contracts; dealing with a project that requires lots of potential penalties for things like taxes, permits, or zoning; handling the estate plans for yourself or a family member; participating in a large real estate transaction; or even going through a messy divorce, all of these situations may warrant having a lawyer on retainer.

While it is certainly not mandatory to enter into such a contract, it can definitely be beneficial. Moreover, if you expect legal challenges in your immediate (or long-term) future, having an attorney on retainer is an excellent way to put your mind at ease. You’ll know that you have somewhere to turn should a serious legal issue arise that you cannot handle alone.

To learn more about hiring a lawyer on retainer, contact us at Beasley & Ferber today. We would be happy to sit down and speak with you one-on-one about your options.

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