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TexLaw, Attorney
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 4430
Experience:  Lead trial/International commercial attorney licensed 11 yrs
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If an attorney requires a retainer fee, say in my case $500

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If an attorney requires a retainer fee, say in my case $500 up front. He then bills me for all time spent on my case and I pay each and every bill over the time until the case is over. Would /should I then be refunded the fee? It seems ethically prudent for him to do that since none that money was earned by his time spent on the case.

Thank you for your question.

The is entirely dependent on the arrangement between yourself and that attorney, as exhibited in the attorney-client agreement. If the attorney-client agreement states that there is a non-refundable $500 retainer fee which is not considered payment for any hourly work, but as a simple fee for handling the case, then the attorney may keep the fee.

If the attorney-client agreement simply calls the fee a retainer fee and does not indicate anything else about it, then it should have been billed against for the hourly work billed by the attorney. If it was not billed against, or otherwise spent on expenses, then it should be returned.

Please let me know if you have any further questions. Please also kindly consider rating my answer positively so that I am compensated by the website for my work on your question. Rating positively does not cause an additional charge and does not prevent us from further discussing your questions.

Best Regards,
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

As far as I remember no such "non-refundable" agreement with the attorney. If he refuses to refund the fees under this condition what

relief can I explore to get these funds back?

You should first make sure that you are correct on your memory and check the attorney-client agreement.

If there is no language regarding non-refundability of the funds, or that the funds are a flat fee for accepting representation, then you have two options:

1) sue the attorney in small claims court for the amount on a breach of fiduciary duty/breach of contract claim. OR

2) contact the Missouri Office of the Chief Disciplinary Counsel and file a complaint.

I recommend No. 2, as the grievance procedure is free of charge to you and will be handled for you. If there is money that should be returned to you, the state bar will order the attorney to return it.

You may file a state grievance at:

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