Definition of retainer agreement
A retainer agreement is a work for hire contract. It falls between a one-time contract and full-time employment. Its distinguishing feature is that the employer pays in advance for work to be specified later. Additional contracts regarding the performance of this work may also apply.
It is common for a person seeking the services of a lawyer (attorney) to pay a retainer ("retainer fee") to the lawyer, to see a case through to its conclusion. In addition to the retainer fee, an agreement between a client and an attorney may provide for a "contingent fee". Retainer fee can be paid on a fixed, pre-negotiated rate or on a variable hourly rate depending on the nature of retainer and also, the practice of the lawyer/advocate being retained. Both models exist in the industry. The purpose of a retainer fee is to insure payment for future services or work to be rendered. Absent an agreement to the contrary, a retainer fee is refundable if the work is not performed.
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