Can I get a retainer fee back if nothing was done? 47 Answers as of July 08, 2013

My girlfriend gave a lawyer a $750 retainer fee to turn herself in for a drug charge and handle her arraignment, which he did not do. All he did was tell us a week later that I was charged instead of her, which means he did not do what he was paid to do. Is it a ground for a refund?

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Michael Breczinski
Michael Breczinski | Michael Breczinski
No, it means that he went to do what he promised to do and found out that she was not charged, but you were. He may be willing to represent you in the matter and apply the fees toward this. However, he did not do nothing. He went and investigated this and reported his findings.
Answer Applies to: Michigan
Replied: 8/27/2012
Law Offices of John Carney
Law Offices of John Carney | John Carney
An attorney does not need a retainer agreement unless the fee exceeds $2,000. You can retain other counsel at any time, but he can keep any portion of the fee hat was earned. Just to consult with her, open a file, talk to the police or court, or research the case could have been considered "billable hours". If he did nothing you may get a partial or total refund, or you can use the retainer to handle your case and pay your girlfriend back. Either way, if you paid by credit card you may be able to get a charge-back.
Answer Applies to: New York
Replied: 8/24/2012
Larry K. Dunn & Associates | Larry K. Dunn
Your question relates to civil law and not criminal defense. You should consult with a civil attorney. The State Bar of Nevada has a fee dispute procedure if you cannot reach an agreement with the attorney.
Answer Applies to: Nevada
Replied: 8/24/2012
Law Office of Phillip Weiser
Law Office of Phillip Weiser | Phillip L. Weiser
I don't know what the terms of the retainer were or what work the attorney did. I cannot answer your question without more information.
Answer Applies to: Kansas
Replied: 8/24/2012
The Jordan Law Firm
The Jordan Law Firm | John Paul Jordan
Possibly, depending on the contract you made with the attorney. What you may want to look into is whether that money could be used for him to represent you.
Answer Applies to: Oklahoma
Replied: 8/22/2012
    Dennis Roberts, a P.C.
    Dennis Roberts, a P.C. | Dennis Roberts
    He must have done something if he found out that you were charged instead of her.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/22/2012
    Myles Hahn III Attorney at Law | Myles Hahn III
    Request it from him. If you believe that he acted improperly, then file a complaint with the State of Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Committee (ARDC).
    Answer Applies to: Illinois
    Replied: 8/22/2012
    Law Office of Neal L. Weinstein
    Law Office of Neal L. Weinstein | Neal L. Weinstein
    Yes.
    Answer Applies to: Maine
    Replied: 5/22/2013
    Freeborn Law Offices, P.S.
    Freeborn Law Offices, P.S. | Steve Freeborn
    If he did not do any work, then she should get her money back. However, I would start with the retainer agreement. What does it say? Sometimes there is a minimal non refundable portion. Check it out first.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 8/22/2012
    Steven Alpers | Steven Alpers
    He may be entitled to keep some for the work he did, going to court finding out who the charge was against, but the rest should be returned.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/22/2012
    Law Office of Jared C. Winter
    Law Office of Jared C. Winter | Jared C. Winter
    Just contact the attorney and request a refund. Try to work something out. That's the best way to handle the situation. If he/she refuses and you feel like you were wronged, then you can file a complaint with the state bar. You could also sue in small claims court.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/22/2012
    Nelson & Lawless
    Nelson & Lawless | Terry Nelson
    You can ask. If he worked on the case and put in time, he is probably entitled to be paid something for that. You can request he apply the fees to your case to handle it. If not resolved, you could file a fee dispute with the local county bar association.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/22/2012
    Law Office of James E. Smith
    Law Office of James E. Smith | James Smith
    If it was a nonrefundable retainer then no.
    Answer Applies to: Nevada
    Replied: 8/22/2012
    James M. Osak, P.C.
    James M. Osak, P.C. | James M. Osak
    Lawyer DID his work. He investigated your complaint BUT you gave him the wrong information. It was you NOT girlfriend. You want him to work for free. Would you work for free.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 8/22/2012
    Law Office of Edward J. Blum
    Law Office of Edward J. Blum | Edward J. Blum
    Yes.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 5/22/2013
    Herschel Bullen
    Herschel Bullen | Herschel Bullen
    He may claim some, or all, of it is earned. There needs to be *reasonable justification* for that. Whatever portion is unearned should be returned.
    Answer Applies to: Utah
    Replied: 8/22/2012
    Clos, Russell & Wirth, P.C. | Gary A. Russell
    First, your question says it is criminal. This is a civil contract issue. Second, you state your girlfriend paid the retainer for herself. So you lack standing to sue for recovery.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 8/22/2012
    Law Office of Cedric B. Hall, P.A.
    Law Office of Cedric B. Hall, P.A. | Cedric B. Hall
    Often times a client feels that nothing is done on a case that is thrown out or in legal terms no file/nolle prosed. Sometimes you pay your attorney for handling these types of cases before it gets filed by the State Attorneys' Office. Yo will have to look at the contract that you signed with the attorney to see if there are terms that state if it is dropped or if it goes to trial. However the case, the attorney could have presented facts to the State that went into the decision. I would talk to the attorney to see and clarify. But this could be a fair fee. Remember you pay for their knowledge as well as the relationship that they have with the state.
    Answer Applies to: Florida
    Replied: 8/22/2012
    Law Office of Mark Bruce
    Law Office of Mark Bruce | Mark Corwin Bruce
    Not sure what happened here. If You gave a lawyer a fee and he did not appear for the arraignment, you are entitled to the fee back. But what sounds like happened is that she paid the lawyer money, the lawyer made the appearance and discovered that she was not the person being charged. If that is the case, then the written contract (please tell me you signed a written contract) should prevail. Most lawyers will not refund a fee even if there are no charges because they have taken the time and effort to appear at the arraignment. If the lawyer did nothing-eg, if he didn't appear and somehow determined by making a telephone call that she was not being charged-you can ask for the fee back but good luck in getting it. You might try small claims court.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/22/2012
    LynchLaw
    LynchLaw | Michael Thomas Lynch
    Any legal representation in which payment is over $1000 must be done under a written fee agreement. Since the $750 paid is under $1000 your friend might not have a written agreement, if she does then the terms of the contract should be reviewed to determine the remedy. If no fee agreement was reduced to a writing then it would fall under the rules for an oral contract. However, since it was for legal services, in writing or oral, the fee dispute can be arbitrated by either the local bar association or the State bar association. Contact the State bar for instructions. They can be reached at CA State Bar Office of Mandatory Fee Arbitration *415-538-2020*.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/22/2012
    Law Office of Ronald G. Draper | Ronald G. Draper
    I would need to know if the lawyer has expended time in doing things that were out of court activity. Only your girlfriend should inquire about this issue regardless who paid the money.
    Answer Applies to: Illinois
    Replied: 8/22/2012
    Betts Legal Services
    Betts Legal Services | Shawn M. Betts
    If the attorney did not perform any work on the case, the he or she is required by the Minnesota Rules of Professional Conduct to refund back all or part of the retainer. However the language of the retainer may determine specifically what the attorney indicated payment was for. If it was simply to be available to advise her, then she may not be able to get it back. I would suggest trying to discuss the situation with the attorney and try to reach a mutual agreement. If that does not work, you can contact the Board of Professional Responsibility to get an opinion on the matter or file a complaint.
    Answer Applies to: Minnesota
    Replied: 8/21/2012
    Chaudhary Law Office, PLLC
    Chaudhary Law Office, PLLC | Satveer S. Chaudhary
    If no work was done on your behalf, even if it was a flat fee retainer, you are entitled to a refund. You can check further details on the website of the MN Lawyers Professional Responsibility Board. You can cite those rules when contacting the attorney for a refund.
    Answer Applies to: Minnesota
    Replied: 8/21/2012
    Reza Athari & Associates, PLLC | Seth L. Reszko
    You have to look at the retainer agreement. Some retainer agreements include a payment with no refund regardless of whether work was done. If you have a fee dispute, the State Bar of Nevada has fee dispute arbitration.
    Answer Applies to: Nevada
    Replied: 8/21/2012
    Attorney at Law | John P. Rivers
    In many cases involving fee disputes, the most economical way to handle the matter is to submit it to a Fee Arbitration Panel. If the dispute is with a Georgia attorney, the fee arbitration is governed by Rules set out by the State Bar of Georgia. There are specific rules setting out whether or not your case could be arbitrated in this fashion. The State Bar can provide the necessary information.
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 8/21/2012
    Gates' Law, PLLC | Thomas E. Gates
    Yes.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 5/22/2013
    Law Office of James J. Rosenberger | James Joseph Rosenberger
    I would suspect you have a refund coming. Did you have anything in writing from the attorney regarding the fee. I would contact him directly and have him explain. If he is not responsive you can ask the Washington State Bar Association for help.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 8/21/2012
    Barbara Fontaine, Esquire | Barbara Fontaine
    She should write a letter asking for a reund, make copies, and send it certified mail return receipt requested. If nothing happens, contact your bar association and ask how to proceed.
    Answer Applies to: Rhode Island
    Replied: 8/21/2012
    Andersen Law PLLC
    Andersen Law PLLC | Craig Andersen
    That would depend on your retainer agreement. It seems that would be fair but your retainer agreement would control that situation.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 8/21/2012
    Thomas C. Brandstrader Attorney At Law | Thomas C. Brandstrader
    You should be able to unless it was marked non refundable. An attorney who is discharged is entitled only to compensation for work actually performed. Ask for an accounting of his or her time.
    Answer Applies to: Illinois
    Replied: 8/21/2012
    Mary W Craig P.C. | Mary W Craig
    If the lawyer took money to represent her, and did not do so, and will not refund the money, then contact the State Bar and ask for help with a fee dispute.
    Answer Applies to: Alabama
    Replied: 8/21/2012
    Natty Shafer Law
    Natty Shafer Law | Nathaniel Shafer
    It might be. Talk to the attorney and explain why you feel you are entitled to a refund. If he is unwilling to refund at least part of the money, you can file a complaint with the state bar ethics committee.
    Answer Applies to: Utah
    Replied: 8/21/2012
    MckennaLaw
    MckennaLaw | Keven A. McKenna
    It sounds like a breach of contract case in small claims. Give it a try.
    Answer Applies to: Rhode Island
    Replied: 8/21/2012
    Law Office of Gregory Crain | Gregory Crain
    No.
    Answer Applies to: Arkansas
    Replied: 5/22/2013
    Law Office of Jeff Yeh
    Law Office of Jeff Yeh | Jeff Yeh
    No. He did do his job. He showed up in court for the arraignment and found out that she wasn't the one charged, but you. He did all he was supposed to do!
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/21/2012
    Leonard A. Kaanta, P.C. | Leonard A. Kaanta
    It depends upon the retainer agreement, you file a grievance against him.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 8/21/2012
    Beaulier Law Office
    Beaulier Law Office | Maury Beaulier
    If the work was not performed, a refund would be required.
    Answer Applies to: Minnesota
    Replied: 8/21/2012
    Law Office of Russell A. Warren
    Law Office of Russell A. Warren | Russell A. Warren
    That's between you and your attorney. You need to look at the language in the legal services contract you should have signed. Then, make an appointment to speak with him about that issue.
    Answer Applies to: Missouri
    Replied: 8/21/2012
    Attorney Paul Stanko
    Attorney Paul Stanko | Paul Stanko
    The lawyer is at least entitled to keep the reasonable value of services provided, even if those services were different from what was anticipated. This is called Quantum Meruit. Also, if the retainer was a "General Retainer" securing the lawyer's services over a certain period, he may be entitled to keep the entire amount regardless. Either way, he is not required to return the entire amount if he put any time or effort into the case.
    Answer Applies to: Indiana
    Replied: 7/8/2013
    Robert Valles and Associates P.C.
    Robert Valles and Associates P.C. | Robert Valles Jr.
    Yes.
    Answer Applies to: Texas
    Replied: 5/22/2013
    Law Office of Brendan M. Kelly
    Law Office of Brendan M. Kelly | Brendan M. Kelly
    Not likely, but what does the fee agreement say?
    Answer Applies to: Nebraska
    Replied: 6/26/2013
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