What is a Retainer?

A Retainer is an upfront cost incurred by an individual in order to pay for the services of a professional. In our firm, a Retainer works like a security deposit – the deposit is held in the client’s trust account throughout the course of representation, and whenever a particular service or expense is rendered on behalf of the client (i.e. telephone calls, research, etc.), that amount is deducted from the Retainer and paid to the firm. This amount is billed on an hourly basis as determined by the level of experience held by the attorney, paralegal, or law clerk that has performed a specific task in your case. If the Retainer is completely exhausted, the Retainer will be applied to your final bill. If the Retainer is not completely exhausted, the residual amount is returned to the client.

What Happens when the Retainer is Exhausted and there is More Work to be Done?

Attorney – client relationships, including the payment of the Retainer and other fees, are governed by a Letter of Engagement which must be signed before legal services are performed. When Retainer Fees are exhausted, we will ask for a ‘Refresher Fee’, which is simply an additional fee paid to in a prolonged case. The amount and method of paying Refresher Fees depends on mutually agreed terms between attorney and client which may vary, however the following are examples of financial arrangements that can be arranged:

1.We may recommend that the Retainer be replenished by another lump sum payment for an amount which will enable the completion of our services if the hours/ work involved in completing the matter could be reasonably determined.

2.We may recommend the client provide payment according to the amount provided via invoice (similar to ‘pay-as-you-go’ method).

3.We may recommend the client provide payment equal to an agreed percentage of the monthly invoice for services rendered, usually offered under lengthy litigious circumstances in which overall costs can not be determined due to unforeseen court appearances, interlocutory applications, etc.

Fixed Retainer Fees

In most uncontested matters, i.e. real estate transactions, immigration applications, etc., we will require a ‘Fixed’ Retainer Fee, which is one fee that covers all legal fees associated with that task. In such cases we provide the option of paying the total Fixed Retainer Fee prior to the commencement of services, or a minimum of 50% down payment and the remaining fee at the time of completion. Other matters such as real estate transactions, acquisition of company shares, and other transactions involving the transfer of assets, we may require fees to be paid at the time of completion of the transaction, usually deducted from the cash consideration being transferred.

How Much Money is Expected to be Paid for a Retainer?

A recommended Retainer Fee will be calculated based on our assessment of the work to be done, which will include several factors such as the nature and complexity of the case, the overall value of compensation claimed in the matter, the urgency of the matter, etc.

Based on the details of the case, we also will try to prepare you for the range of fees that might be involved. Keep in mind, any estimate is simply that: an estimate. Although there are matters where legal fees and cost can be determined accurately, there are cases where it is difficult to determine the final amount of legal fees due to numerous factors, such as contentious litigation or real property transactions. Our goal is to be as up front with you as possible, and for you to have a positive experience as our client.

Disbursements & Out -of- Pocket Expenses

In addition to the recommended Retainer/ Refresher you will also be responsible for the payment of disbursements which include filing fees, expert reports, witnesses, searches at government departments, travelling cost, stamp duty, etc. These fees are paid separately from the Retainer/ Refresher Fees.


Once we have been retained we will provide you with an invoice on a monthly basis that will demonstrate the deductions from the Retainer Fee or Refresher including hourly billings by members of the firm and other expenses relating to the matter. All outstanding fees are required to be paid within fourteen (14) days of receipt.