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The Divorce Encyclopedia
Fee and Retainer Agreement


Term Definition Fee and Retainer Agreement - a written contract between lawyer and client, spelling out the terms and conditions of employment.
Application in Divorce The fee and retainer agreement puts in writing the relation of a lawyer and the client and the responsibilities of each to the other.

In a divorce action, virtually all divorce lawyers ask for a retainer -- a deposit placed in a lawyer’s trust account from which the lawyer makes withdrawals as the case progresses. Generally, the retainer is a substantial sum, particularly when the case appears headed for trial. The usual routine calls for the attorney to draw down the retainer and the client to replenish it when it gets to a certain level. In this arrangement, the lawyer has the money before he mails the bill and the bill is really an accounting of what has already been spent.

Generally the retainer language is part of a fee agreement stipulating the retainer fee as well as billing arrangements, including the hourly rate for all services (the lawyer’s, associate’s, paralegal’s and clerk’s); billing practices and conditions of payment; the terms and conditions for the replenishment of the retainer, if applicable; the hiring and payment of experts; and the termination of services; the payment of expenses; and the disposition of funds unused in the litigation.

Some divorce lawyers have hourly rate for out-of-court work and a higher hourly rate for in-court appearances.

Lawyers, it should be remembered, bill for all work and graduate time in small fraction of a billable hour.

See also Contingency Fee; Success Fee Agreement.

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