A retainer agreement is a contract between you and the law firm where your rights and responsibilities to each other are outlined. You are strongly encouraged to read and understand the retainer agreement before signing the document as it is a binding legal contract.
A retainer can take multiple forms. Most commonly a retainer is a sum that a law firm requires that you pay as an advance against work to be done. Which commonly means that after you retain our law firm, by signing the retainer agreement and pay the retainer fee, the law firm is able to start working on your matter. The law firm will then periodically withdraw from the retainer to cover the cost of its time and expense in representing you. If the retainer is depleted, a refresher will be required in order for the firm to continue to work on your matter.
A common misconception is that a law firm that requires a smaller retainer agreement means that your matter will cost less if you retain that firm. This is not necessarily correct. The initial retainer amount is an amount paid to begin work on your matter. It is not necessarily the total or final amount that will be needed to resolve your matter. When evaluating what firm may be best for you don’t be distracted by a low initial retainer fee. Ask for an estimate of what the attorney believes will be the total amount necessary to resolve your matter.