for legal services are on an hourly basis. Some attorneys, mostly personal injury
lawyers do work on a contingency fee basis, so they are not paid until they prevail on behalf of the client and then a portion of the judgment/settlement is used to pay the attorney's fees.
There is no standard retainer. Each attorney will typically evaluate the case for him/herself and determine whether a retainer is necessary and if so, how much to charge as a retainer.
Yes, most cases do settle before going to trial, although a lawsuit may have been filed. Mediation is another alternative to settle disputes, either before or after suit is filed.
I hope this helps clarify the situation for you.
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