What is a retainer?

Most lawyers engaged in the practice of family law use retainers. Yet, I’m often asked, “What is a retainer?”

A retainer is a specific amount of money that is obtained in advance of the legal work to be performed.  The retainer is placed in a trust account and used as a reserve for the lawyer to charge against as he works on your case.  The amount of the retainer is determined primarily on the estimated amount of time that needs to be dedicated to your case for the month.  Typically, retainers are refundable and, thus, the amount of the retainer in trust after charges is refunded to the client upon closure of their case.

Abraham Lincoln once quipped that a retainer was important because the lawyer then knew he had a client and the client knew he had a lawyer.

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