When an attorney sets a retainer to take on a new client, they do so based on an estimate of what they think it will cost to resolve the case. After they settle or go to court, they have to settle their financial matters with their clients.
Depending on how much they work and their typical hourly rate, their services may not have consumed the entire retainer that their client paid. In such a scenario, the lawyer should provide a refund of the remaining balance along with detailed bills.
Unfortunately, some lawyers may try to keep a retainer when they haven’t done enough work to justify doing so. Knowing your rights when paying a retainer can help you protect yourself.
How can you validate your concerns about your retainer?
You may have loosely tracked how much time you communicated with your attorney or spent with them in court, only to have them claim to have spent far more time on your case when they send their final bill.
One of the best ways to protect yourself in this situation is to go back over any previous billing statements that you still have. Finding a massive jump in billable time when there aren’t any correlating court dates, discovery or research could be a warning sign that your lawyer (or someone working in their office) has tried to pad the figures to inflate what they bill.
If you can show conclusively that your lawyer’s billing practices were unfair and that they should have returned some of your retainers after representing you, you may have grounds for a legal malpractice claim based on their financial misconduct. Knowing more about your rights as someone hiring an attorney can help you identify and fight back against legal malpractice.