Do I get my remaining retainer back from my lawyer?

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Do I get my remaining retainer back from my lawyer?

I gave a lawyer a retainer of 1,500. I was only given a receipt when I made
payment and nothing which stated one way or the other whether a balance was
refunded or forfeited. I assumed my cost would amount to more than the retainer,
but our business has concluded and my charges amount to just over 1,000. Is
there a standard for whether it goes one way or the other when it’s not
explicitly spelled out? State of New York. Thanks.

Asked on March 26, 2017 under Business Law, New York

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

No, there is no universal standard: some retainers represent nonfundable minimums, others are simply deposits vs. costs. That said, while there is no universal standard, in my experience, the retainer is more often a non-refundable minimum: more attorneys seem to do it that way than not. While this really *should* have been spelled out for clarity and to avoid conflict, given how common the non-refundable minimum is, while it's not at all guaranteed that you'd lose if you sued, the odds are against you: it's more likely than not that a court would find for the lawyer and not order the return of any money.


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