Why I limit my retainer-clients

Not all prospects who ask from me a proposal for a legal retainer is given one. If I don’t see them as retainer-clients, I usually politely decline to save us both the time and energy.

I’ve had sufficient and varying degrees of experience with retainer-clients from my law firm days to now my own private practice.

With just a few questions, I can tell whether a partnership can be formed through the legal retainer. If yes, I’d go open my laptop and design a proposal to match the client’s goals and objectives, as well as their available resources. If no, I’d politely advise that we aren’t a match and it would not serve any of our interests moving forward.

I say partnership because it is essentially the nature of a legal retainer. Unlike one-off legal services where the lawyer is concerned with a single and particular transaction, a lawyer who is legal retainer has to continuously watch the back of a retainer-client by being knowledgeable of the client’s business and activities. It is a plus if the lawyer knows previous incidents in the past which might affect a legal advice or strategy in the present.

For a partnership to work, it requires that partners see each other on eye to eye. More than the trust which is the foundation of any partnership, the client and the lawyer as partners recognize the value of each other. When these are present, it makes for one amazing partnership between them and for exciting things to come.

Unfortunately, there are only a handful of clients who see legal retainers this way.

Fortunately, I know some of them.

When I evaluate what makes it work with my retainer-clients, I keep coming back to the partnership and value. They have consistently shown or exhibited the qualities of clients who see legal retainers as more than just an advisor they can call, their legal retainers are their business partners helping them to accomplish their goals and objectives.

Conversely, to those retainers that did not work out, the opposite reasons applied. They saw the legal retainership as a one-sided affair, most of the time hoping that they can get a lawyer to say “yes” to something that is clearly unlawful or illegal. Unfortunately for them, I’ve never seen myself as a rubber-stamp lawyer. While I find many alternative ways to help clients with their problems, I draw the line at approving those that would clearly harm the client.

In all, legal retainers are valuable for both the client and lawyer. To me, being the ever curious, I like learning about my clients and on what they do. That is the value I get.