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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.

Reducing the Cost of Legal Representation

A divorce is one of the most challenging and emotionally draining experiences someone can go through. An effective and experienced family law attorney can help guide you through this trying process, but it’s no secret that hiring legal representation in Texas can be expensive. Consider these tips:

  • Send specific, numbered questions via email
  • Gather documents and do your own homework
  • Create a timeline of your case

In this video, Mary E. Ramos outlines these tips to help reduce the cost of representation in Texas. If you’re going through a divorce, or any other difficult family law situation, contact the expert attorneys at Ramos Law Group, PLLC for more information.

1. Send Your Questions Via Email

Divorce can get expensive, especially when people won’t agree to things. As soon as attorneys get involved, expenses begin to skyrocket. One of the ways that you can reduce your attorney fees during the divorce process is to communicate via email to your attorney when you have questions and concerns.

At Ramos Law Group, attorneys may request that clients send questions, numbered one through five, in an email so that they can addressed and dealt with in an efficient and timely manner. The office policy is to return all emails within a 24 hour period.

2. Do Your Own Homework

Another way to mitigate your expenses is to do as much homework as you can on your own and gather documents to provide your attorneys. The less time that your attorneys have to work on your case, the less expensive it is for you.

3. Create a Timeline

One of the most effective tips to help reduce the cost of representation in Texas is to create a timeline of your case for your attorney. In other words, write out the ‘story’ of your case. Your divorce case is a story, and the only way your attorney is going to be able to relay that story to the judge is to know exactly what is going on. Remember: this your case, this is your marriage, these are your children, this is your life.

By providing as much detail as possible to your attorneys, they will be able to express your concerns to the judge more accurately; it’s like drawing a picture in a coloring book, and filling out that picture with as much detail as possible. This puts your attorneys in a better position to reach the goals set in your case.

Contact Our Team Today

Mary E. Ramos is committed to achieving positive outcomes for each and every one of her clients. As a board certified family law attorney, she has the knowledge, experience, and reputation you’re looking for when you’re going through a divorce. Consider these tips to help reduce the cost of representation in Texas, and schedule a consultation with our attorneys at Ramos Law Group, PLLC, today.

Statement Overview

This article is intended for our clients to provide a quick overview of our invoices. Should you still have questions please feel free to contact us directly. Thank you for trusting us with your family law matter.

Services

This area includes details about the work performed by one of our staff members.  It includes the date the item was completed, initials for the resource completing the task, quantity in hours, rate and total cost for line item.

Expenses

This area includes any expense including but not limited to filing fees, process server fees and any 3rd party fees.

Totals

At the end of the Expenses area you’ll see the totals for both the services and expenses area.  It will be displayed in the following format:

  • Total – All charges for entire invoice.
  • Payment – If applicable will display payment applied to specific invoice.
  • Balance Owing – If applicable, this value will be the amount due to the firm.   A value of zero only indicates that you have a zero balance for this specific invoice.

Detailed Statement of Accounts

This area will display current invoice and any previous invoices with an outstanding balance.

Accounts

This area will display the current amount available in your trust account.  If the value is less than $1,000 you will be required to replenish your retainer.

Sample Invoice

Sample Invoice

 

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