Many people who come to our office are new to the world of litigation and the hiring of an attorney. Many of our Clients, sensibly and understandably, have assorted questions about how and how much they will pay for our services. Common questions are “What do you mean when you say ‘retainer’?” “How much will this cost?” and “Is this a one-time fee?” In order to explain exactly how we as your attorneys will be paid and what it is that you the Client will be paying for, exactly, we like to provide everyone with what we hope is a brief but informative summary of how we as your attorneys earn and collect our fees.
Starting with the simplest and most straight forward issue, some legal matters are indeed billed by way of a one-time payment of a flat fee by our Clients. Things such as Wills, Trusts, and Powers of Attorney, traditional legal documents which have been drawn up for hundreds of years by attorneys, are quite frequently created for clients by our office, and many others, for the payment of a one-time fee. Other legal work, however, is frequently more complex, takes more time, and has no certain date as its end. These matters are usually taken as an “hourly billable” matter and will require the payment of, and usually a refreshing of, what is called a “retainer”.
When it comes to an hourly billable matter requiring a retainer, we as your attorneys are only paid by you the Client for the time we actually spend working on the legal aspects of your particular matter. We do this so that you do not pay us for time not spent on your legal affairs and also so that we are accurately compensated for the time we do utilize on your behalf. When it comes to these minutes, we—like virtually all lawyers—bill in an initial six minute increment and then by the individual minute after six minutes. These billable minutes will be drawn from a retainer.
So, what is a retainer? A retainer is a lump sum paid to a law office in advance, from which the office will draw its fees as it works on a Client’s affairs. It is not a flat fee or a one-time payment. In fact, we—like most law offices—require Clients to refresh their retainer to its original amount when only 25% of the original retainer funds remain. But please be aware that we here at the Law Offices of Lynda L. Hinkle know that these are tough economic times and we recognize that many times a Client will not have at their disposal a sufficient amount of funds to refresh their retainer completely to its original amount once a matter has begun its course. We’re hard working attorneys who represent hard working Clients, and we understand fully the value of a dollar and your need to provide for your family and your necessities. Talk to us. We will find a payment plan that works for you. While the amount of a retainer will vary from matter to matter, its purpose will always be the same. The retainer is a pool from which the law office will draw its fees as it continues to work for our Client. This allows your attorneys to work for you without worrying about payment and it ensures you the Client that your money is being earned, since you will be billed and have the opportunity to examine your bill before we as your attorneys pay ourselves for our work. The retainer system ensures hard work and honesty in both effort and accounting on the part of your attorneys.
You will have detailed information on how our time was spent on your matter. If you have any questions or issues, we always welcome dialogue. If you need to conserve funds on your matter, we can offer suggestions on ways we can reduce costs such as chasing down information on your own to provide us so that we do not need to spend our time on assembling discovery, responding promptly to our questions, planning conversations with us for maximum value, and other suggestions unique to your circumstances on how matters can be settled more promptly.
There are lawyers who deliberately extend the time spent on matters to increase their billable time. We can promise we will never do that. To us, resolving your matter as quickly and efficiently as possible is job number one. That being said, no lawyer can guarantee the amount of time that will need to be spent on a matter. How the other side reacts, your own decisions about what you will accept in negotiation, and other factors can significantly increase or decrease your bill. One factor you CAN control however is hiring the right lawyer who will put your needs above their billing…that’s us!