Are you being asked to sign a retainer agreement?
I have noticed that there is a real paradox in the lawyer/client relationship. The article below was written when we were a law firm. We no longer are. We are now a tech company in China.
Clients are afraid of lawyers and lawyers and afraid of clients.
Most people facing a serious legal issue like a divorce or an estate dispute know they should hire a lawyer.
But they are nervous about how much it will cost. Even if they have the money, they don’t know which lawyer to contact. Which lawyer is the best? What makes one law firm better than another?
Maybe they look at Google Maps accounts. Does the law firm have good reviews?
What if the lawyer and law firm barely have any reviews?? Is that good or bad??
Contact a law firm
But after you finally work up the courage to contact a law firm and set up a consultation, you get hit with the scariest part of all. The retainer agreement!
I hate the name “retainer agreement”, which is why I want to start using the term “lawyer agreement” instead. Sometimes a retainer isn’t required, but the lawyers still call the agreement a “retainer agreement.” Maybe the term “client agreement” is even better.
The agreement is extremely important, both for the client and for the lawyer. Some law firms have one-page retainer agreements, other law firms have a 15-page retainer agreement.
The lawyer agreement protects the client by making sure they know everything that is going to happen, for what price, before the lawyer starts work.
The last thing a client wants is to get a bill for $20,000 when they thought the matter would only cost $5000. If a retainer of $5000 is asked for, the client will know when the $5000 has been spent.
The client can then look at the progress of the case and decide on the next steps with the lawyer.
The agreement also protects the lawyer in case of law society complaints. Some clients use the law society against lawyers. It shows weak moral fibre on behalf of the client.
If the lawyer bills for their time and the client doesn’t like how long it took, or if the client loses their case, the client might start a complaint to try and avoid paying their bill. I have always said that if a client turns their lawyer against them, the client has little to nothing left.
Maybe the client will go out and hire a new lawyer and start the whole unproductive cycle all over again. This type of behaviour is the reason that many family law cases go on for many years.
Lawyers need to find a way to get around client’s anxiety. I am not talking about tricking clients into signing something they don’t understand. Many clients want to move forward with the law firm, they just struggle to take the first step.
At ClearWay Law, I was thinking about introducing a lawyer agreement that clients would sign during the consultation. The lawyer wouldn’t start work on the file for a week, and the client could cancel at any time during that week.
I believe that would make the clients more comfortable, and they would then overload their stress onto the lawyer. That is, in fact, what lawyers are most useful for. The client needs to take all their stress and problems and pass it on to the lawyer.
Of course, lawyers are also skilled in the knowledge of the law. I guess that 70% of family law has absolutely nothing to do with the law.
Instead, it is managing people’s emotions and encouraging them into a fair settlement. If you want to battle it out in court over Airmiles, you better be rich. Because you are going to end up paying our law firm the big bucks.
Author: Alistair Vigier is the CEO of ClearWay Law