Retainer Agreements

Retainer agreements and opening letters are indispensable and serve multiple purposes. They ensure there is a common understanding of the scope of what you will do, set out how the client will pay, confirm advice and responsibilities, and even establish what the client should expect you to retain at the end of the file.

Many of the common issues that lead to complaints, claims, and obstacles to retirement and finding a successor can be avoided with some up-front clarity.

Some issues you might cover include (this list not being comprehensive – you will think of other things):

  • How long you will retain their file
  • How, eventually, their file will be destroyed to protect their privacy and confidentiality.
  • Your firm’s privacy policy and how you will protect their personal information.
  • If you are keeping a second original of a POA or directive, for how long?
  • What they should expect in terms of communications and replies when they call, email, or write (your communications standards).
  • How they can provide feedback.
  • Any limits on the scope of your retainer.
  • Your billing practices. Resources:  Retainer  Agreements Good general resources can be found:
  • The Law Society of British Columbia, “Practice Resource: Retainer Agreement” (December 2016).
  • PracticePro “Retainers and Non-engagement letters” (n.d.).
  • Lawyers’ Insurance Association of Nova Scotia, “Retainer Agreements & Engagement Letters” (n.d.).

Good resources for limited-scope retainers can be found here: