Hiring a lawyer on retainer is a cost-effective way of getting legal advice. You pay a fixed fee and in return, you receive legal advice within the scope of the retainer.
Here at Prosper Law, we work with lots of businesses across Australia on a retainer basis.
In this article, I will explain how retainers work. Additionally, I will share my experience as a lawyer. I offer ongoing legal assistance to companies.
Is it worth having a lawyer retainer?
Whether it’s worth having a lawyer on retainer will depend on what you need them for. It’s not likely to be a good option if you have a one-off legal matter. If you need legal advice regularly, even for just one hour per week, it’s a good choice.
At Prosper Law, we work with small businesses that use our services one to five hours per week. We also work with large companies that rely on our in house legal team for up to 40 hours per week. For these businesses, it’s worthwhile having a lawyer on retainer because it is cheaper and more personalised.
When we work with companies on an ongoing basis, we get to understand their business really well. We ask the right questions and make good legal judgements. This is because we’ve asked lots and questions and understand their risk profile.
On the other hand, ad hoc legal services can mean that your lawyer doesn’t understand your business. Instead of focusing on the important things, they instead take a black-and-white and overly conservative view. This isn’t helpful or a good use of a company’s budget for legal services.
What does a retainer fee cover
A lawyer retainer fee can cover anything that you and your lawyer agree to. When we talk to new clients, we take the time to understand what they need. This helps us to get a feel for the likely workload.
Some lawyers may limit the services that they can provide under a retainer arrangement. This may be because they are not familiar with an area of the law. The legal retainer may exclude litigation because it often takes a significant amount of time.
For example, we work with engineering consultancy firms who want our retainer to cover:
- employment law
- drafting templates
- contract law advice
- small claims disputes
- debt recovery
- negotiating contracts
- other ad hoc legal services
Some lawyers don’t offer certain services or the legal services may not be relevant for companies. For example, a company will not need legal advice about family law. But they are likely to need a lawyer on retainer to manage and negotiate contracts and deal with employment legal advice.
How much is it to have a lawyer on a monthly retainer?
The cost of a monthly lawyer retainer varies. We charge our smallest client $1,000 plus GST per month. This is because they have infrequent legal requests and a few large contracts each year. Our other larger clients may need someone full-time and for this, we charge around $22,000 plus GST per month.
Other providers of monthly legal retainers may charge more or less. When hiring a lawyer on retainer, it’s crucial to choose one with ample relevant experience. Higher fees are more likely if the lawyer has significant experience, or lower fees if they are more junior.
You can also expect to pay more if the area of law you need help with is niche. Areas of law that are unique and where not many lawyers have experience in will see you paying more.
I’d recommend choosing quality over price. This is because a lawyer on retainer who can hit the ground running is more likely to benefit your business. On the other hand, if you have simple legal tasks it may be worthwhile choosing a lower-cost, more junior lawyer.
My experience as a retainer lawyer
I’ve worked as legal counsel for over ten years. My clients have mostly been large international companies and I’ve worked within a small legal team. Prosper Law offers monthly retainers to utilise our legal expertise and provide outstanding service.
My personal experience has been a positive one. I’ve built long-lasting relationships with my retainer clients and I know their businesses very well. Clients know that they work with a business-oriented law firm, and we base our working relationship on trust.
When I’m negotiating contracts, I understand the risk better and spend more time negotiating high-value points.
And because I work negotiating lots of different contracts, I know what is ‘standard’ or ‘unusual’. I have times when I am negotiating contracts and the other side will tell me ‘everyone has accepted this’. I know this isn’t true because I’ve negotiated the same contract for other clients
For clients that I’ve worked with for years, there will be times when the workload is heavier. But then there are months where there is less work. Our clients like a fixed fee legal retainer to know their exact payment, even though the workload varies.
We also don’t have a trust account or require an advance payment retainer. We charge a flat fee and the client pays on a monthly basis.
What kind of companies use a retainer?
All sorts of companies use a retainer lawyer. Our clients range from small businesses with three employees, up to companies with thousands of employees. There is no company too small or too big that can benefit from a lawyer on retainer.
Companies often spend a significant amount of money on one legal matter because their lawyer charges an hourly rate. Consider hiring a lawyer on retainer to save money on legal fees and lower the cost of the services. You should compare this cost to your company’s annual spend on legal fees.
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Farrah Motley, Director
I am the Director of Prosper Law. I founded our online law firm in 2021. I wanted to create a better way of doing legal work and a better experience for customers of legal services. You can find me on the Queensland Law Society register of solicitors.
I hold a Bachelor’s degree in Law and Accounting. I was admitted to the Supreme Court of Queensland in 2014.