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Written Retainers are Important! Part 1

A colleague recently asked me why a written retainer agreement is so important. His question spurred memories of several fact patterns that emerged over the years involving attorneys and their clients who found themselves in the middle of a dispute over fees without a clearly defined agreement.

The lessons learned from the misfortunes of others often are the most valuable. In this post, I realize this is a bit off the subject of DUI law but it touches every relationship between client and attorney but exploring the subject shows why picking the right lawyer makes and how attorney and client deal with one-another can make a huge difference. I may add more examples in the next few posts. 

To be continued tomorrow…










Written Retainers are Important! Part 3

Cases Exemplifying Why Written Retainer Agreements are so Important 

In the first example, an attorney and client entered into an agreement where the attorney would represent client in a civil action for personal injury. Attorney agreed to represent client for a flat fee of $5,000.00. The agreement was not written. The client thought he or she was getting a good deal because the fee was low given the amount of work required by the case.

The attorney represented client in the civil case, appeared in court on behalf of the client on several instances, and eventually settled the case. Attorney then sent client a bill demanding one-third of the proceeds of the settlement. The bill was for several times the amount initially agreed. A fee dispute followed. 

To be continued tomorrow…

Written Retainers are Important! Part 2

Requirements of written fee agreement

Retainer agreements must be in writing under a number of circumstances, including in contingency cases and in cases where hourly fees are expected to exceed $1000.00. See http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/displaycode?section=bpc&group=06001-07000&file=6146-6149.5.

In contingency cases, the retainer is especially important because it sets expectations for both the attorney and client as to what the fee will be at the end of the case. Contingency cases are cases where absent recovery for the client, there is no fee charged by the attorney. 

When a retainer agreement is not in writing, the fee attorney may recover against the client a fee that is 'reasonable.' This is a double-edged sword for both attorney and client.

To be continued tomorrow…



Written Retainers are Important! Part 4

In this case, the client's expectations were that he or she would pay $10,000 and have representation in his or her civil case. He or she likely hired the lawyer because of the rate. He or she may have unwittingly entered into an agreement where he or she will pay more in the end than if he had hired an attorney who appeared to charge more in a clearly defined written agreement. What were the lawyer's expectations when the lawyer entered into the agreement? The outcome is not what you would expect.

The fee dispute in this case may be resolved by way of attorney's suit against client for 1/3 of the proceeds of the settlement. Client will argue that the fee should be limited to the $5,000.00 in the oral agreement.

 To be continued tomorrow…