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Definition of Retainer

A retainer is the advance payment of fees and the costs to hire a lawyer before the lawyer agrees to proceed with the case. Attorneys are not cheap and you need to understand the full cost before signing a legal agreement. An attorney should be willing to fully explain their fees and billing practices. Common fee agreements include an hourly rate, flat fees, retainers and contingency fee agreements.

A retainer fee can be required in advance based on the hourly rate for a specific case. Generally, the retainer fee is deposited into an account, and the cost of services is deducted as they accrue. If you have established a retainer account you should review this account periodically and verify amounts are deducted properly. Consider, retainers are non-refundable unless labeled "unreasonable" by a court. Under some conditions if you fire your lawyer you may forfeit the remainder of the retainer fee. If you need to hire a personal injury lawyer most personal injury lawyers work on a contingency fee basis and do not require a retainer.

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