Lawyers that require a retainer work on an hourly basis. A lawyer's hourly rate is determined by their experience and the normal hourly rate in the counties they practice. As the lawyer works on your case, they deduct the monies from your retainer. The following are some tasks you might see on an invoice from your lawyer: drafting pleadings letters, or emails; researching a legal issue; talking to you, opposing counsel or an expert; and attending court hearings, depositions, and mediations. A lawyer’s Legal Assistant and Paralegal also bill for the time they spend on your case, but at a much lower rate. Legal Assistants and Paralegals should be utilized whenever possible as it is cost effective for the client. Usually, the retainer is paid all at once, but on rare occasions, the retainer can be paid in payments. Once your retainer is reduced down to $500.00, the lawyer will require you to replenish your retainer so that your case can be completed.
A flat fee is an amount of money the lawyer will accept to complete your case from beginning to end. Flat fees are not common for divorce, custody, child support or probate cases. However, if a client can convince the lawyer that he/she has an agreement with the opposing party, a flat fee would be appropriate in that situation. The following are usually flat fee cases: chapter 7 bankruptcy; chapter 13 bankruptcy; criminal cases only involving plea deals; name changes; estate documents (Will, Durable Power of Attorney, Health Care Power of Attorney, and Health Care Directive/Living Will); and probating a Will as a Muniment of Title.