Updated: Thursday, 29 Nov 2012, 11:29 AM EST
Published : Thursday, 29 Nov 2012, 10:24 AM EST
Grand Rapids, Mich. (WOTV) - While you may have heard the word "retainer" in the legal world, what does it really mean?
What is a retainer:
Retainer agreements are legal contracts between an attorney and client. Most attorneys have clients sign a retainer agreement before doing any work for them. The retainer spells out, in detail, the following information: Who the parties are that are entering into the agreement, the nature and limitations of the case, the amount of any retainer required, the rate you will be charged for services after your retainer is worked off, and a list of what those services may entail. Retainer agreements establish the attorney-client relationship. When you sign the agreement, ethical rules are initiated and the court recognizes that the attorney is beginning to represent you.
Payment due dates along with interest charged for late payments or incentives provided for early payment of your monthly bill are also spelled out in the retainer. It is also important to note that the retainer agreement should clearly state whether your retainer is refundable or not.
Read before you sign:
When you hire an attorney, you need to carefully read the retainer agreement and be sure that you understand it. Ask questions, if you have them, before signing the agreement. It amazes me how often clients sign a retainer agreement and later have no idea what they have agreed to. The most common misunderstandings occur due to payment policies and charges. If you know that you cannot pay your bill, in full, every month and your agreement states that is the billing policy, you need to discuss the issue with the attorney before you sign. Payment plans are not always available and you may need to consider putting your attorney fees on a credit card and paying that monthly. Likewise, charges for phone calls and emails can add up quickly if you do not realize you are being charged for them. If you are informed ahead of time you will likely limit those calls to when it is really important and save yourself some money.
Keep a copy handy:
Family legal issues are extremely stressful and the last thing you need during this time is a disagreement with your legal advocate so take the time to review that agreement, ask questions and then be sure you keep your copy in a safe place so you can look at it if a question arises. It can save you a future hassle and make your legal issues run smoothly.
Nothing herein constitutes a legal opinion