How do I get a retainer back from a lawyer when we don’t have an engagement letter or contract?

Get Legal Help Today

 Secured with SHA-256 Encryption

How do I get a retainer back from a lawyer when we don’t have an engagement letter or contract?

I asked a lawyer if he could help me incorporate my business, assist with bylaws, and issue securities to our first investors. He said yes and estimated that the total cost would be around $3000, which I should pay up front (as a retainer). The quality of his work was not to our satisfaction, so I told him that we wanted to discontinue. He didn’t provide me with a contract and has never sent me an invoice. The issue now is that he considers the $3000 his service fee and tells me that if I file a complaint with the State Bar the bill on my end will be much higher.

Asked on May 20, 2015 under Business Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

You file a complaint with the Bar association--and you specifically tell them that he said that if you file a complaint, your fee will be higher, since that is itself an ethical violation. Any emails, text messages, etc. you have documenting what he said will be helpful, but are not necessary--compalaints like this can be decided on the basis of testimony. If you don't get a satisfactory result from the Bar, you may be able to sue him for money--while a written contract is always better (e.g. easier to prove the terms of), an oral or verbal agreement is enforceable, too.

Bear in mind that if his work met minimum acceptable professonal standards, than even if it was not to your personal satisfaction, the lawyer is entitled to be paid for the work he did. Unless there an actual "satisfaction guaranty," you can't get a refund because you are not happy if the work still was done to a professional level.


IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although AttorneyPages.com has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

Get Legal Help Today

Find the right lawyer for your legal issue.

 Secured with SHA-256 Encryption