An attorney usually sits down with a new client in the beginning of the case to talk about how the client is going to pay for the lawyer’s services. The financial arrangement and scope of representation is usually set out in a legal services agreement.
Most attorneys require their clients to make a deposit towards the cost of legal fees. This deposit is called a retainer. Some attorneys keep the retainer in trust; it’s basically a deposit toward the last invoice. Other attorneys subtract the amount of each invoice from the retainer. When the retainer is exhausted, these attorneys usually require the client to replenish it.
What Happens if a Client Doesn’t Pay an Attorney?
If a client fails to pay the attorney’s fees in accordance with the legal services agreement, then state law allows the attorney to file a statutory attorney’s lien for the amount of unpaid legal services.
Attorneys can record the lien with the State Recorder’s Office. Attorneys are allowed to file the lien document in court and to send a copy of the lien to a title company or financial institution.
If the client receives money in a property settlement, a court-ordered property division from the sale of the house, or the distribution of non-retirement funds from a financial institution, the attorney is entitled to assert the lien against the money.
An attorney is also allowed to assert a lien against past-due court-ordered child support.
The Roston Law Firm Legal Services Agreement
My legal services agreement requires my clients to maintain a balance in a special trust account. However, if a client is financially unable to maintain a balance in trust, then it is my policy to file an attorney’s lien in the superior court action to ensure that the client understands the financial commitment he or she has made to the litigation. It also ensures that I am paid for the work I have done on behalf of my clients.
Posted in: Divorce