A representation agreement sets out the terms of the relationship between the attorney and the client. The agreement also outlines the fees and compensation that the client will owe the attorney. A clear and well drafted agreement makes sure both sides understand the exact work that the attorney will perform, and lays out how potentially problematic situations will be resolved before they arise. Representation agreements often include terms like how and when the attorney will communicate status updates to the client, and who specifically will perform the work. These agreements can include a wide variety of payment structures, in addition to laying out how other associated fees - such as court costs - will be handled.
FindLaw's Representation Agreements section provides information about how representation agreements work and what to expect when you hire an attorney. In this section you can also find information about attorney fee agreements and what it means to have a lawyer on retainer. Finally, there is also a section that discusses frequently asked questions when it comes to legal malpractice lawsuits.
Having a Lawyer on Retainer
You might have heard people say they have a lawyer "on retainer" and wondered what that actually meant. Having a lawyer on retainer means that the person pays the lawyer a small amount on a regular basis, and in return, the lawyer performs legal services as the client needs them. Most people don't need enough legal services to justify having a lawyer on retainer; however, having a lawyer on retainer can be very useful for businesses that need legal work often but don't have the funds to hire a lawyer full time.
There's an important distinction to make when it comes to retainers. There is a difference between having a lawyer "on retainer" versus a general "retainer" or "retainer agreement." Generally, when a lawyer is "retained" that means that a person has hired him or her, and the money paid to the attorney upon hiring him or her is a "retainer." As for the "retainer agreement," that is the contract that is signed when a person hires an attorney.
Legal Malpractice Lawsuit
Sometimes despite all of your efforts researching and interviewing an attorney, you end up with an attorney who you feel failed you. One action you can take in this situation is to initiate a legal malpractice lawsuit. The most common types of legal malpractice occur because of negligence, breach of contract, or breach of fiduciary duty.
It's important to note that it's often difficult to win a malpractice lawsuit, mainly because a client must establish several factors in order to prevail. One of the hardest factors the client will have to show is that a competent attorney would have prevailed in the underlying case. Often times, it's better to discuss the problem with your attorney when it arises, and if you can't come to a solution, you can always fire the attorney. The attorney is required to provide you with your file or send your file to your new attorney, if you request him or her to do so.