An attorney will not normally begin working on a case without receiving a retainer, or prepaid amount to cover the costs that will accrue. The amount varies and depends mostly on the hours of work that are estimated to go along with any particular type of case. Civil and criminal cases can involve millions of dollars and years’ worth of work, or they can settle without much fanfare. An outcome may be unpredictable, but a legal professional can better calculate the initial costs by case comparisons.

How Does the Retainer Fit in with Total Compensation?

The Retainer is actually only a portion of the costs an attorney will charge. Some require a regular monthly amount in advance and you pay the remaining balance at the end of the month for any additional work that the retainer doesn’t cover. Having a set amount of retainer each month is helpful to some individuals and businesses that have ongoing legal concerns. It becomes a planned expenditure and there are rarely any unexpected large legal fees.

Are there other fees?

Many clients mistakenly think initially that the retainer amount is the only fee associated with a case. The total amount of fees vary by type and duration of case as well as the different services needed. Some individuals and businesses simply need to verify certain types of legal information, whereas someone facing prosecution will need a lot of time and service by an attorney.

Charges can accrue for phone calls, emails, depositions, copying, filings and a myriad of other expenditures. Attorneys have to pay some of these expenses out-of-pocket, so this is the reason they require at least a minimal amount of prepay in the form of a retainer. It’s good to discuss possible costs with your attorney before embarking on a case. The Utah Bar Association suggests having a written fee agreement with your attorney so that there is no dispute as to who pays what and when.

How Much Should Someone Expect to Have to Pay in Retainer Fees?

Some ongoing legal services require an individual or company to pay as little as $500 a month retainer, while criminal cases can run into thousands of dollars for retainment. The difference is in how difficult or unique the case is, the hours that will detract an attorney from doing other work and the sheer number of work hours involved. An attorney is a specialist in legal language and process. It is not something that most people can attempt to do on their own. There are general standards that keep an attorney from charging more than is acceptable in the field, but the better the track record the attorney has, the higher the retainer will be.

What are the Pros and Cons of Paying a Retainer?

There are a lot of benefits in paying a retainer for an attorney. For one, you can rest assured that your case will get priority in their schedule. As a client, they will make sure to meet the deadlines required to file petitions and motions and all of the timely business associated with your legal case. You rarely receive a shocking bill in the mail for unpredicted, or unpaid services. Most attorneys send out a detailed bill each month that shows exactly where the retainer monies are going.

The down side of retainers is that, in some instances, the monthly amount doesn’t “roll ever” into the next month. If you are paying $500 a month for services for a month and you fail to use the service, you will still have to pay a full $500 retainer the next month. They don’t typically add any leftover amounts to the next month.

The high retainers required for criminal cases are a burden for some to come up with at one time. We all want the best representation available if the worst happens, but it’s usually at a high premium. There are some attorneys that are willing to break the fees down a little bit, but a strict payment routine is mandatory.