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WeepingBuddhist posted 12/9/2013 09:51 AM

I REALLY wish I had better understood how retainers work (or at least how it is working in my case).

I am lucky enough to have a buddy giving me the money for the retainer ($2,500). As I learned today, I will pay each month and then when dissolution is final, I will get the retainer back but I need to keep the balance at $2,500 until then! I find myself now having to ask for twice as much cash so that the attorney bills can be paid and then give her the retainer back when this is all over. ugh. Apparently, this is so that if things drag out and one stops paying, fees can be covered up to the retainer amount and I get that, I just wish I had been more alert to this.

debbysbaby posted 12/9/2013 18:37 PM

I had to pay $3500 retainer but no more. I did not have to pay anything to keep the balance at $3,500.

phmh posted 12/9/2013 19:06 PM

That's not how it worked for me, either.

I paid the retainer, got monthly statements showing how much was left, and a check in the mail when it didn't cost as much as the retainer was.

How far along are you with this lawyer? Although, maybe the usual practice depends on the city/state, so maybe all of the lawyers in your area do it like this?

Heal&Deal posted 12/9/2013 19:33 PM

This is not how it worked for me either. I paid the retainer and then the attorney took money out of that each month for the services rendered. I received an monthly itemized statement accounting for the debits. When the D was final, I received a final statement and a check for the balance.

How many consults did you do? How do other attorneys in your area bill?

roughroadahead posted 12/9/2013 20:51 PM

Typically, retainers work like ^^ they said. You pay, it goes into the lawyer's IOLTA account and they basically pay themselves out of that as they do billable work on your matter. Let's say they bill out at $400/hour, and they spend 12 minutes talking to the other lawyer, they are now entitled to $80 of your retainer. There is another type of retainer too (*pause to go get mpre study book because I don't have the type of job that bills hourly in the first place*) but it also doesn't work like that.

Lawyers have been disbarred if unearned retainer is not returned, but it sounds like the "retainer" is. If it is making your life more difficult than it needs to be, finding another lawyer is always an option, again, unearned fees are always returned.

Must Survive posted 12/9/2013 21:36 PM

My lawyer (fired immediately after settlement hearing)collected a retainer and I had to keep it at that amount. $2,500. Every month I would get a statement and how much was due to keep the retainer currently at $2,500.

Gemini71 posted 12/9/2013 22:23 PM

Yep, that's what my paperwork said too. I have to keep the retainer at $5000. However, in reality his office is happy if I keep the overall balance positive. It helped that I contacted the billing department and let them know I could only afford to send them a certain amount each month, which I would do to keep the balance positive and/or growing back towards paid in full.

WeepingBuddhist posted 12/10/2013 07:08 AM

Thanks for all the input! I re-read my agreement and it's pretty clear that my retainer works more like a deposit. From what she has said so far, the dissolution should be pretty simple and not be too costly (no assets/no kids). I should have paperwork to review in a week or so then give it to him to sign. I am thinking we should file after January 1 just to make taxes easier.

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