Retainer AgreementAs an attorney, I often hear clients ask, “What is a retainer?”  Potential clients and existing clients of attorneys are often times misinformed when it comes to understanding what a legal retainer is and how it is used throughout the entirety of their legal case.

A retainer is the fee that the client pays when hiring an attorney to act on his or her behalf.  Typically, the attorney sets the retainer fee prior to taking a client’s case. When a client decides to hire an attorney to represent them in their legal dispute, the attorney will require the client to furnish adequate funds to meet the attorney’s set retainer amount.

Once the client pays the retainer fee, the attorney places the funds in the client’s trust account.  As work is performed on the client’s case, the attorney will deduct his or her expenses related to the case from the retainer, thus decreasing the amount of funds in the client’s trust account.  As the deductions from the retainer decrease the amount of the account, the attorney may require the client to replenish their retainer to ensure the attorney has sufficient funds to adequately represent the client.

The practice of law is a service-based industry and an attorney’s time is his commodity. Attorneys use retainers to solidify the fact that once hired, the attorney now represents the client and will operate off of the client’s retainer account. The retainer allows the attorney to provide necessary services to obtain the client’s goals, including determining and executing an appropriate strategy and plan of action in reaching a client’s goals through various functions. For example, it is very likely that the client will be billed for legal research, drafting of pleadings, telephone and in person conferences, drafting and reviewing emails, telephone conversations with opposing counsel, preparation of discoverable documents, investigation of facts, preparation for and appearances in court, correspondence with the court, and other tasks necessary to adequately handle the matter in controversy. The attorney’s time involved in out-of-office representation will be measured from the time the attorney leaves the office until the attorney arrives back at the office.

The following fees are examples of expenses that will be deducted from the retainer: court fees, duplication fees, filing fees, facsimile fees, and postage fees.  Larger expenses such as travel expenses, long distance telephone expenses, accountant’s fees, appraiser’s fees, consultant’s fees, other professional fees incurred on the client’s behalf (including specialized or local legal counsel), and other disbursements will be in addition to the retainer amount. Thus, the client will have to bear the cost of those fees separately from the attorney’s retainer amount.

The retainer amount and the process by which the attorney’s firm uses or spends the client retainer amount is normally discussed simultaneously with the explanation and signing of the retaining contract for hire with the attorney or the attorney’s firm.  The contract should explain in detail how the retainer will be used, as well as, when and how the client’s money will be drafted from the retainer account.  Retainers are property of the client and the client’s funds only, not the attorneys. The attorney only receives the amount of the retainer in which the attorney earns by working on the case.  Once the case has been resolved, the attorney should return any remaining retainer funds in the client’s trust account to the client.

Quick Example:

If the retainer is $5,000 and the attorney and her staff expend 5 hours at a rate of $300.00 per hour preparing, conferencing, drafting, and filing the original answer and the counter petition then the client should expect that a total of $1,500.00 of work was performed on the case, thus leaving a total of $3,500.00 left in the clients retainer fund. If filing an original petition for divorce, the client must also consider filing fees at around $400.00 and service fees for the process server of approximately $100.00. Those fees would be subtracted from the retainer amount as well, leaving the client retainer fund with about $3,000.00. It is important for the client to understand that the retainer is an initial deposit and will likely have to be replenished before the suit is resolved.

wooden gavel and block

There’s an old joke that goes something like this: What’s the difference between a lawyer and God? Answer: God doesn’t think he’s a lawyer. Yes, everyone loves a good lawyer joke, and granted, there is no shortage of sleazy shysters out there, but with a bit of patience and research, you can easily avoid the bad guys and obtain a lawyer who really does have your best interests at heart. This is important, because a good attorney can be an invaluable asset. Consider just some of the ways in which a qualified attorney can help you today.

A Sound Strategy

As far as complexity is concerned, quantum physics has nothing on our American legal system. Attorneys spend years making sense of the intricacies so that you don’t have to. If you have a legal issue that pertains to a crime, business or civil matter, an attorney can help you to make sense of your rights and develop a strategy to ensure the best possible outcome. By contrast, a lack of qualified legal representation can all but guarantee that you obtain less than what you deserve…if you obtain anything at all.

A More Timely and Stable Resolution

Let’s say that you decide to start a corporation. “I don’t need a lawyer to start a business,” you said. “I read an article on eHow, and I think I pretty much have the gist of it.” So you started filling out the forms, drafting your Articles of Incorporation, and paying the fees. As it turns out, though, you forgot to file all of the necessary paperwork, resulting in timely and costly delays, and now you’re being sued for trademark infringement by a company with a similar name located halfway across the world. With a qualified lawyer, you could have avoided all of these pitfalls.

A Level Playing Field

Let’s say that you’re in the midst of a divorce. You don’t have an attorney, but your spouse does. You might as well raise the white flag right now. A qualified attorney provides you with a level playing field. He or she understands all of the methods, strategies and tricks that the opposing lawyer is likely to unleash, and can help you to not only weather those storms unscathed, but to implement highly effective legal strategies of your own. Without this kind of professional assistance, your goose is cooked (if you’ll forgive the cliché).

stressful divorceImproved Peace of Mind

Most importantly of all, a qualified lawyer gives you the confidence to walk into that courtroom knowing that you have more than a fighting chance. Your attorney takes care of all the boring, confusing and frustrating legal procedures on your behalf, so you can focus on more important things. That freedom alone is worth the cost of a good attorney.

Divorce and Family Lawyer – Houston Texas

Mary E. Ramos is the lawyer Houston is talking about. If you need your own highly qualified family lawyer in Houston, contact Ramos Law Group, PLLC today at 713-225-6200. We’ll show you why we’re not your average law firm, and we’ll fight to get you the favorable outcome you deserve.

harris county district court

Finding the right lawyer in Houston can be quite the undertaking. With a population of over 2 million, we make up the largest city in Texas and the fourth largest city in the United States. We have nearly 600 square miles of land and enough attorneys to populate a medium-sized island (I know there’s a lawyer joke in there somewhere). Every attorney claims to be the best, so how do you actually go about choosing the right one—or ones—to defend your rights?

Choosing the Perfect Lawyer in Houston

The first step, of course, is just process of elimination. What kind of attorney do you need? A divorce lawyer? A personal injury lawyer? A criminal lawyer? Perhaps an attorney who handles mass torts? Stay away from general-purpose, Jack-of-all-trades attorneys. As the local country buffet always reminds us, those who don’t excel at something are mediocre at everything. Hire a lawyer who knows their trade inside and out.

Look for Reviews and Recommendations

The Houston Lawyer Referral Service is an excellent non-profit agency that links people with qualified, highly rated attorneys in the Houston area. You can also find detailed reviews on sites like YellowPages.com, Yelp, Google Reviews, Avvo Lawyer Directory, and the FindLaw Lawyers Directory. If you find a lawyer who seems like a potential match, check out their reviews and testimonials. The more time you spend researching, the more informed your decision will be.

Speak to Potential Candidates

Just because an attorney has an attractive website and plenty of glowing reviews doesn’t automatically mean that they are the right fit for you. If a particular individual seems to show potential, give them a call and schedule a consultation. This will enable you to speak directly to the attorney and determine whether the two of you are on the same page. If you have any reservations or misgivings, keep looking. This is one of the biggest cities in the country, and there is no shortage of legal professionals.

Questions to Ask Your Attorney

  • How many years have you been in business?
  • What are your strategies? Do you take an aggressive approach, or do you favor settlements?
  • How long will this case take to resolve?
  • What are your fees?
  • Do you have experience in the county (or court) in question?

Find Your Lawyer in Houston – Call us Today

If you’re looking for the right lawyer in Houston who works in divorce and family proceedings, call Ramos Law Group, PLLC at 713-225-6200. We’ll gladly set you up with a consultation and demonstrate precisely how we can help you. Our services include divorce, child support, adoption, alimony, visitation and other critical family matters. Don’t hesitate another moment. Call us today.

The primary reason we charge for attorney consultations is customer service.  Our goal is to provide the highest level of service possible while keeping attorney fees under control.

Years after opening our doors, we found that free consultations were negatively affecting the level of service we were able to provide to our clients.   During this time we unable to timely respond to client inquiries and in some cases had to start setting trial dates further out to allow the firm to better prepare for each case.  While a short delay is the better than going to trial unprepared, we felt that to provide better service we needed to expedite all cases whenever possible.

With the above reasons in mind, we set out improve our service by implementing the following changes:

  1. We discontinued free consultations;
  2. We added a hosted Client Relation Management System;
  3. We added an additional attorney to our staff; and
  4. We added an additional paralegal to our staff to assist with clients’ needs.

Out of all the improvements, the elimination of free consultations gave us the best results.   It allowed our attorneys an additional 10 hours per week to dedicate to our existing case load.   Initially, many members of our potential client pool were upset with the change but we believe that by charging for consultations we are able to optimize our time devoted to both potential new clients as well as existing clients and provide the best service possible.

At the Ramos Law Group, PLLC, we are always looking for ways to innovate and provide a better level of service to our clients.  We realize that clients not only want an attorney that can get results but they also want an attorney that is willing to explain the law and be available when they require it.

If you need to schedule a consultation with a Houston Divorce Attorney, please give us a call at (713) 225-6200 or visit us on the web at RamosFamilyLaw.com.

Scroll to top