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Tina, Lawyer
Category: Legal
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Experience:  JD, BBA Over 25 years legal and business experience.
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On nov. 9, 2015 I red a lawyer to do my living trust, power

Customer Question

on nov. 9, 2015 I hired a lawyer to do my living trust, power of attorney for health and property and last will. I paid him $1500 for a retainer fee. I also signed an agreement stating I am paying for the retainer fee and the prices I will be charged for the work. I assumed that the $1500 was for the service I needed. now, on june 26, 2016, I got a bill for $1200. 8 months later. now I called my lawyer about the charges and for 2 days I kept calling and was assured he will return my call. he never did. I am trying to get an answer from him as to why I needed to give him $1500 retainer fee. I am not involved in any court case, I just wanted a new living trust...etc. why would he charge me a retainer fee?
Submitted: 3 months ago.
Category: Legal
Expert:  NYFamilyAttorney replied 3 months ago.

Hello. I’m a licensed attorney with 36 years’ experience. I specialize in family law and appeals, and I have many years’ experience with landlord-tenant issues, employment and contract law. I also have written hundreds of legal articles. I look forward to helping you today.

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At the end of this session, I will ask you to please rate me as that’s the only way I get credit for helping you today. Thanks! Please note: I want to help you but I may need some additional information from you. Are you okay with rating me? I would really appreciate it!

Have you read the retainer agreement and do you know what the $1500 was for? What did it specify that it was being used for? It's important to read the retainer to make sure you know if that's the full amount of the legal charges for the work he was performing for you.

Are you saying he sent an additional bill of $1200? I just want to clarify.

Expert:  NYFamilyAttorney replied 3 months ago.

Regarding a retainer in Illinois, Ill. ethics opinions state:

A retainer is characterized as payments made to ensure the lawyer is available to handle the client's legal matters. These advanced funds are earned when paid since the lawyer is entitled to the money regardless of whether he actually does the work. Therefore, because these funds are earned upon receipt, they may be deposited in the lawyer's business account.

Additionally, a true "retainer fee" is a fee paid by a client to retain an attorney to act for him,and it is the property of the attorney when paid.

I would suggest checking the retainer agreement to see what it is you agreed to. If you agreed to have him do the living trust, POA and will for $1500, then he can't charge you additional money. If the $1500 was just to retain him and it was money towards the work, and not the final price necessarily, then he can bill you.

The concern I have is that he's not returning his phone calls. The number 1 reason that lawyers get reported to the state bar association is failure to return phone calls. I'd give him till the end of next week to return your phone call. If he does not, then you can consider reporting him to the state bar, but you can let him know, by letter, that you will do that if you don't hear from him by ____ date. (pick a date)

Expert:  NYFamilyAttorney replied 3 months ago.

It would help me to know what that retainer agreement says it's for. This way I can help you.

Expert:  NYFamilyAttorney replied 3 months ago.

Can you let me know when you've checked it to see what it says? That would be really helpful. Thanks!

Expert:  NYFamilyAttorney replied 3 months ago.

I'd like to help you with your question so can you please let me know if you've had a chance to review the retainer? Thank you!