Can I get my Retainer Back?

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What is a legal retainer?

When you meet with your New Jersey attorney, you may be offered a free consultation meeting. During this consultation, you will be able to discuss your legal problem(s) while your attorney asks a number of pertinent questions. These questions and your answers will help him ascertain whether or not he wants to take on your case.

If and when your NJ attorney decides to represent you, you will be required to pay a legal retainer fee. This fee serves as payment for the services the attorney will provide for you regarding your legal matter. Every attorney’s retainer fee is different.

What is a retainer agreement?

Prior to paying your attorney’s retainer fee, you’ll be presented with a retainer agreement. This is essentially a contract stating what legal actions will be taken for you in exchange for the payment of the retainer up front. The retainer agreement is legally binding and ensures the attorney that he will be compensated for his hard work.

Can I get (any of) my retainer back once my case has ended?

The expertise provided to you by an experienced attorney is a very valuable service. The amount of money spent by those who decide not to hire an attorney is often actually quite a bit more than any retainer fee would have cost them.

Many attorneys know and understand their jobs so well that they have calculated precisely how much it will cost them to represent you. This amount is typically what they charge as their retainer fee. If your case becomes more complex, your attorney may need to use all of your retainer and bill you for any subsequent fees.

All of these details will be specified in the retainer agreement, which you should read in full before signing and paying your retainer fee. This will prevent any surprises regarding payment later.

If I “fire” my attorney before my case is complete, will I receive any leftover retainer?

Whether or not you will be owed any of your initial retainer depends on a lot of factors, namely how much work your attorney had already completed on your case before you severed the contract. Court appearances, motion filings, negotiations and legal correspondence all cost time and money, and chances are high that you will not have much left (if anything) in your original retainer unless you decide you don’t want their services almost immediately after hiring them.

Can’t I just represent myself and save money on the attorney fees?

While it is legal for you to represent yourself in court, there is a reason most people decide to work with an attorney on their legal matter. That reason is that an attorney’s knowledge of the legal system is simply irreplaceable, and 9 times out of 10, clients who retain attorneys actually end up making a noticeable return on their investment (with the investment being the attorney’s fees).

For example: bankruptcy attorneys in NJ will never miss a filing deadline. They will counsel you on the most beneficial time for you to file bankruptcy. All of your bankruptcy paperwork will be filled out and filed with the courts without any worry on your end. Legal documents can often be confusing, stressful, and lengthy without an attorney’s help.

Failure to comply with bankruptcy laws could cause you to inadvertently commit bankruptcy fraud. Your attorney’s expertise will guarantee that will not happen, saving you money on fines and potentially, even jail time.

As your legal case moves through the court system, your attorney will consistently review it to ensure that everything is filed appropriately so that you will achieve your desired outcome. You can represent yourself, but why would you risk it?

 

Image credit: ccPixs

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