Solo Practitioners 101: Drafting Retainer Letter or Fee Agreement


2Do you use an effective retainer letter or fee agreement? The best way to keep a client happy and to get yourself paid is to have clear communication of what is expected in your representation. And you should clearly outline when payments for that representation are due.

It is highly recommended to set out the terms of your relationship with your client in written form.  Outline what your client should expect so there are no surprises or areas for dispute, especially with regard to fee payment and retainers.

What should be in your retainer letter?


Highlight how you bill your fees for legal services, either by an hourly rate or a flat fee.


Request that your client maintain a minimum balance in their escrow account so you don’t have to keep asking for money.  However, make sure it is in line with the scope of the representation. Mention that the retainer will be held in the law firm’s escrow account. And that any unearned balance will be refunded to the client after the representation.

Responsibilities of Client

Address the responsibilities of the client.  For example, the client should pay any fees when due. The client should keep you informed of any developments. And the client should respond promptly to your requests for information.

Limitations of Representation

Explain where there are limits to your representation either by bar regulations or ethical concerns. For example if drafting estate planning documents for husband and wife you might discuss how you cannot represent one’s interests over the others.

Your retainer letter does not have to be intimidating or overly legalistic.  Just set the parameters so there are no disputes.  Once you receive the signed letter back with the client’s retainer, keep it in the client’s file.

Need a sample retainer letter? You can find a sample retainer letter in our resource manual: Law Office on a Laptop, Second Edition: How to Set Up Your Own Successful Law Mobile Law Practice.




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