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What does it mean to have a lawyer “on retainer?”

As businesses and individuals navigate the complex and often treacherous waters of the legal world, having a legal professional readily available can be a game-changer. This is where the concept of an attorney on retainer comes into play.

A retainer is a prepayment made to a lawyer to secure their services for a specific period. It’s a bit like having a legal subscription – where you have a dedicated attorney at your disposal whenever the need arises. Here is what it means to have an attorney on retainer and some misconducts you should know.

What to expect when you retain a lawyer 

Having an attorney on retainer goes beyond the traditional model of hiring one for specific cases. When you retain an attorney, you establish an ongoing relationship that can provide you with access to legal advice, guidance and support whenever you require it. 

Additionally, retaining an attorney involves negotiating a fixed monthly or annual fee. This predictable cost structure can be a lifesaver for businesses managing their budgets. Plus, it helps prevent the shock of unexpected legal expenses, which can be particularly daunting.

Signs of misconduct

While most lawyers uphold ethical standards, being cautious of potential misconduct is vital. For starters, you should always remember that lawyers have a duty to prioritize their client’s best interests above all else. Therefore, it’s a warning sign if your lawyer appears more focused on their financial gain or personal interests than zealously advocating for you. 

Additionally, trust accounts are essential in the legal profession to hold client funds separate from an attorney’s personal funds. If you notice discrepancies in billing or a lack of transparency regarding financial matters, it’s essential to investigate further. 

It’s also important to note that maintaining client confidentiality is a fundamental ethical duty for lawyers. If your lawyer shares sensitive information about your case without your consent, it violates trust. Breach of confidentiality compromises your case and raises concerns about their ethical standards.

Navigating the legal landscape can be complex, but being informed can also enable you to hold a law practice accountable for misconduct when your retainer agreement isn’t properly upheld.