New York State Law requires that an attorney who undertakes to represent a party, and enters into an arrangement for, charges or collects any fee from a clients, must sign a written Agreement with the client, setting forth, in plain language, the terms of compensation and the nature of services to be rendered. A duplicate copy of the Agreement must be provided to the client by the attorney.
The Retainer Agreement must contain certain provisions, including the following:
- the names and addresses of the attorney and the client
- the nature of the services to be rendered
- the amount of the advance retainer, if any, and what it covers
- the circumstances under which any portion of the retainer may be refunded
- the client's right to cancel the Agreement at any time
- how the attorney will be paid after the retainer is depleted
- the hourly rate of each person whose time may be charged to the client
- any out of pocket disbursements for which the client will be required to reimburse the attorney
- the frequency of itemized billing, which shall be at least every (60) days
- that the client has the right to be provided with copies of all documents relating to the case and to be kept apprised as to the status of it
- whether and under what circumstances the attorney might seek a security interest from the client, which can be obtained only upon court approval and on notice to the adversary
- under what circumstances the attorney might seek to withdraw from the case for non-payment of fees
- the attorney's right to seek a charging lien from the Court, and
- that, in a dispute concerning the attorney's fee, the client may seek arbitration and the attorney shall provide all pertinent information to the client in the event of such dispute or upon the client's request.
In a New York State domestic relations matter, an attorney may not enter in an Agreement for, charge or collect a non-refundable fee from a client. An attorney may enter into a "minimum fee" arrangement and a client that provides for the payment of a specific amount below which the fee will not fall based upon the handling of the case to its conclusion.
It is essential that you read and understand the written Retainer Agreement offered by your attorney before you sign it and bind yourself to its terms.