What Does Your Retainer Agreement Say About You?

I am still working my way through my review copy of Stephanie Kimbro’s new book, reviewed here by Richard Granat. There’s just too much information to breeze through and unlike many bloggers (not Richard, but others), I actually make a point of reading the books that I review.

Still, one of the most useful parts of the book that I’ve noticed so far is the appendix, which includes a few draft unbundling agreements. Though there are one or two that I’ll comment on more in my full review, I was particularly impressed by the sample for Rania Combs’ virtual law practice . While Rania’s agreement isn’t short, it’s devoid of legalese, tightly structured. Most importantly, fairly protects both her clients and her own interest in an emerging area of practice – online delivery of unbundled legal services – that is potentially fraught with ethics and malpractice consequences for lawyers while educating clients about issues that should concern them when retaining an attorney online (such as UPL and security).

In many ways, Rania’s retainer agreement is a form of marketing. As I read the agreement, I thought, “Wow, someone who puts that much thought into a retainer agreement must do the same in the work for clients.” Moreover, Rania’s retainer treats delivery of legal services online as a serious undertaking, not just an offhand side tool to generate more revenue – which makes her services more appealing than both non-lawyer form fillers or fly-by-night practitioners.

Of course, retainer agreements necessarily vary depending upon one’s practice area. Some retainer agreements lend themselves to a short and stylistic format. In other practices, where speed is important, Enricho Schaefer’s email agreement or Andrew Flusche’s sign online feature makes sense.

Retainer agreements are also an evolutionary process, evolving and changing with each experience. I imagine over the next few years, Rania’s agreement may change as well as the concept of unbundled legal services becomes more routine, or as issues arise that perhaps she didn’t anticipate.

What does your retainer agreement show about you and your practice?