When you undertake a partnership with an attorney, it may not always be as straightforward as you think. Even cases that aren’t that complicated legally can become complicated when it comes to attorney’s fees and your expectations as a client.
A retainer agreement is one tool you can use to help formalize and clarify obligations and roles between you and your attorney, but is it always the right move?
What is a Retainer and How Does It Work in Colorado?
A retainer is a fee you pay to an attorney upfront before you even begin working together. They’re used to help secure the services of the attorney and show a sort of willingness of the client to work with the attorney they’re hiring.
The retainer agreement is the formal document that outlines your relationship with your attorney and it details the obligations as well as the expectations involved such as fees, how you’ll communicate, and principles of the work you do together.
Each retainer agreement is different in style and length, but there are three main types of retainer agreements used: a general retainer, a retaining fee agreement, and a special retainer. Learn more about each below.
This is a retainer that contracts the services of an attorney for a specific time. Basically, you pay a lawyer to be available to you. The general retainer allows you to anticipate that you will have access to their services when you call upon them.
Retaining Fee Agreement
This is a common retainer agreement where clients pay a lump sum or a deposit in advance that is then placed in a trust account. When the lawyer performs work, then they take money out of the account to cover fees. Anything left over is refunded to the client from the trust account at the conclusion of the agreement.
This is a flat fee for a specific project or case. It often is applied to things such as drafting a will or criminal court cases. If you have specific legal matters to address, an experienced defense attorney can offer guidance on which of these retainers are adequate for you.
Are Legal Retainers Required?
No, it is not required to enter into a retainer agreement with a lawyer. There are no laws that require it, and agreements of this nature are completely voluntary and depend on the preferences of those involved.
It should be noted, however, that if you do enter into a retainer agreement with a lawyer, a written contract should be involved. This helps to protect you and to clarify all the terms ahead of time. Once the document is signed, it does become enforceable by law.
The Pros and Cons of a Retainer
There are definitely situations where it makes sense to enter into a retainer agreement, but others where it simply won’t make sense. Here are a few benefits to retainer agreements:
- Availability and access to a lawyer that you choose
- Useful for planning your budget
- Useful for busy people who need to set hours each month for specific attorney services
On the other hand, there are some disadvantages to hiring an attorney on retainer, such as:
- You risk paying for services you don’t use
- Upfront costs can be prohibitively expensive
Retainer agreements can be a great reassurance since they’re a formal document that outlines obligations and expectations, but they’re not for everyone. Discuss the options with your attorney and see what will work best for you in your particular case, allowing you to move forward with confidence.
About the Author:
Kimberly Diego is a criminal defense attorney in Denver practicing at The Law Office of Kimberly Diego. She obtained her undergraduate degree from Georgetown University and her law degree at the University of Colorado. She was named one of Super Lawyers’ “Rising Stars of 2012 & 2019” and a “Top 100 Trial Lawyers in Colorado” for 2012-2020 by The National Trial Lawyers. Both honors are limited to a small percentage of practicing attorneys in each state. Additionally, Expertise names her to its lists of the 25 Best Denver DUI Lawyers and 21 Best Denver Criminal Defense Lawyers, both in 2020. Ms. Diego has also been recognized for her work in domestic violence cases.