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10 TIPS FOR A TIP TOP      RETAINER     AGREEMENT:    21st century style!    Carolyn Elefant, MyShingle.com,          Caro...
Tip 1: A retainer    isn’t just any old     form, run of the     mill agreement      pulled off an        online site2
3
Tip 2: Retainercan’t be static,must evolve withthe times.    4
What’s changed?       5
Today’s Clients• More sophisticated• Greater access• More skeptical of lawyers• Shorter attention spans• Less patient (wan...
Today’s Law Practice• Larger firms• Outsourcing• Electronic billing and documents• Alternative fee agreements• Virtual off...
Tip 3: Think about all 3 elements of  the retainer agreement & don’t        be afraid to disrupt.                 8
Quickest, easiest andabsolute best way to  cut through thelegalese and clarify  your retainer….          9
RETAINER    AGREEMENTContract between lawyer       and client           10
My                         retainer                        agreement                         must be                      ...
Bare EssentialsWork to be donePrice to be paid           12
Scope of   Representation• What you will do• What you WON’T do (limited scope)                13
Unbundled   Representation• Requires fully informed client• May have a checklist/menu of what  you will and won’t perform•...
Fee Agreements• Flat Fees• Refundability• “Magic language”           15
Flat Fee Conundrum• To the trust account?• Payment at the end?• Define “as earned” in fee agreements            16
•   Hypothetical: Flat Samples:           Flat Fee fee is considered    earned on receipt (if permitted under    rules)•  ...
Tip #5: A rose is a rose a rose.A retainer is a retainer is a retainer whether calleda click wrap or term of service or su...
Whether you use         subscription     services, coupons     or bidding systems,          you need a         retainer an...
MAGIC LANGUAGE•Contingency agreements(specified percentages)•Statutory fees•Attorneys right to attorneysfees•Fee splitting...
Other 21st Century Considerations•   Outsourcing: can you send work    overseas or out of the firm?•   Document retention:...
TIP #6: Decide what stays in and what              comes out                  22
•                             In v. Out    How often can clients call?•   Do you charge for phone, research, travel, etc.....
TIP #7 FORM = SUBSTANCE• 21st century readers - electronic• Graphics• Clean font• readable layout• Mobile compatibility   ...
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TIP #8: DON’T    FORGET ASIGNATURE STYLE!       28
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Resources for Retainer Agreement              Design• Matt Butterick - Typography for  Lawyers (book and website)• Jacob N...
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TIP #9:MAKE ITREAD!  33
• Flesch-Kincaid readability test:  http://flesh.sourceforge.net/; online  readability test (with suggested  improvements)...
Sample Fee Agreement from Online          Form Provider   FEE AGREEMENT FOR DEFENSE IN CRIMINAL PROCEEDINGS   THIS AGREEME...
Online Provider Score                 36
21st Century Retainer Score                        37
Heatmapshttp://uxdesign.smashingmagazine.com/2009/09/24/10-useful-usa                          38
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Tip 10:   CarolynElefant.comCarolyn.elefant@gmail.com         41
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21stcenturyretainer mbsa

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Art, Science & Ethics of the 21st Century Retainer Agreement

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21stcenturyretainer mbsa

  1. 1. 10 TIPS FOR A TIP TOP RETAINER AGREEMENT: 21st century style! Carolyn Elefant, MyShingle.com, Carolynelefant.com MSBA Solo Day Nov. 2012 1
  2. 2. Tip 1: A retainer isn’t just any old form, run of the mill agreement pulled off an online site2
  3. 3. 3
  4. 4. Tip 2: Retainercan’t be static,must evolve withthe times. 4
  5. 5. What’s changed? 5
  6. 6. Today’s Clients• More sophisticated• Greater access• More skeptical of lawyers• Shorter attention spans• Less patient (want quicker turn around)• Demand for unbundled services 6
  7. 7. Today’s Law Practice• Larger firms• Outsourcing• Electronic billing and documents• Alternative fee agreements• Virtual offices and mobility - work on the run 7
  8. 8. Tip 3: Think about all 3 elements of the retainer agreement & don’t be afraid to disrupt. 8
  9. 9. Quickest, easiest andabsolute best way to cut through thelegalese and clarify your retainer…. 9
  10. 10. RETAINER AGREEMENTContract between lawyer and client 10
  11. 11. My retainer agreement must be brief!Tip 4: To get started, strip it down 11
  12. 12. Bare EssentialsWork to be donePrice to be paid 12
  13. 13. Scope of Representation• What you will do• What you WON’T do (limited scope) 13
  14. 14. Unbundled Representation• Requires fully informed client• May have a checklist/menu of what you will and won’t perform• Explain (and even have client sign off on) client’s obligation to undertake aspects of work (e.g., filing corporate papers or complaint) 14
  15. 15. Fee Agreements• Flat Fees• Refundability• “Magic language” 15
  16. 16. Flat Fee Conundrum• To the trust account?• Payment at the end?• Define “as earned” in fee agreements 16
  17. 17. • Hypothetical: Flat Samples: Flat Fee fee is considered earned on receipt (if permitted under rules)• The fee is $X. One third is due and earned on receipt on Milestone; one third due on Milestone 2; balance after Milestone 3, or satisfactory final resolution of case whichever comes first.• Or, collect flat fee after work is done (for smaller matters) 17
  18. 18. Tip #5: A rose is a rose a rose.A retainer is a retainer is a retainer whether calleda click wrap or term of service or subscription 18
  19. 19. Whether you use subscription services, coupons or bidding systems, you need a retainer and reasonable fee19 provisions apply
  20. 20. MAGIC LANGUAGE•Contingency agreements(specified percentages)•Statutory fees•Attorneys right to attorneysfees•Fee splitting 20
  21. 21. Other 21st Century Considerations• Outsourcing: can you send work overseas or out of the firm?• Document retention: hold old paper files for HOW long?• Electronic billing• Email security• Third party document retention and use of cloud 21
  22. 22. TIP #6: Decide what stays in and what comes out 22
  23. 23. • In v. Out How often can clients call?• Do you charge for phone, research, travel, etc...and if so how much? Or do you NOT charge for it (but include in overhead)• How quickly will you return phone calls?• What are your office hours?• Do you want your clients to friend you (Social media)?• Document retention: hold old paper files for HOW long?• Are there any federal/state requirements for holding personal information?• Do you run a green office?• Have you undertaken added security enhancements?• Should parents bring kids to meetings? Do you have childcare?• What’s the cancellationpolicy• Who handles client complaints? 23
  24. 24. TIP #7 FORM = SUBSTANCE• 21st century readers - electronic• Graphics• Clean font• readable layout• Mobile compatibility 24
  25. 25. 25
  26. 26. 26
  27. 27. 27
  28. 28. TIP #8: DON’T FORGET ASIGNATURE STYLE! 28
  29. 29. 29
  30. 30. 30
  31. 31. Resources for Retainer Agreement Design• Matt Butterick - Typography for Lawyers (book and website)• Jacob Nielsen - Web usability - http://www.useit.com/• Lisa Solomon, Pixel Persuasion: Writing for the 21st Century Reader (online CLE or legalresearchandwritingpro.com)• Professional designers (odesk, elance, local) 31
  32. 32. 32
  33. 33. TIP #9:MAKE ITREAD! 33
  34. 34. • Flesch-Kincaid readability test: http://flesh.sourceforge.net/; online readability test (with suggested improvements) http://www.online-utility.org/english/readability_te 34
  35. 35. Sample Fee Agreement from Online Form Provider FEE AGREEMENT FOR DEFENSE IN CRIMINAL PROCEEDINGS THIS AGREEMENT is made and entered into this (date) day of (month, year), by and between the law firm of (your law firm name), hereinafter referred to as “law firm” and (client name(s)), hereina to as “client(s).” WITNESSETH: WHEREAS, the law firm is a limited liability partnership of regular practicing attorneys located in (county, state) and certain members of said law firm represent Defendants in criminal proceedings, a WHEREAS, the client(s) may be or has/have been charged in the (district, county, state) District Court with the crime of (specific offense), and WHEREAS, the client(s) is/are desirous of hiring said law firm to prevent the filing of said charges and/or to defend him/her/them on said charges(s). NOW, THEREFORE, the client(s) and law firm do hereby mutually agree that the law firm shall represent the Defendant in connection with the criminal matters above referred to. Client(s) agree(s) to pay law firm a retainer fee of $(dollar amount) for representation in connection with the above set forth matters. Said retainer fee $(dollar amount) shall be paid on the (date) day o year) and $(dollar amount) on the (date) day of each month thereafter until paid in full. That representation shall be provided at the rate of $(dollar amount) per hour with the retainer charged for such to be the retainer fee as agreed above. Amounts paid as retainer fee shall be initially deposited in law firm’s trust account, in the client’s name. Client(s) agree(s) that law firm may, on the 10th and 20th day of each month, withdraw from s and retain as fees an amount commensurate with the work performed to date by law firm on client’s behalf. Client(s) will be provided with a monthly statement of said withdrawals. Client(s) further agree(s) that in the event said retainer fee has been exhausted prior to the completion of representation that the law firm shall thereafter render a monthly bill for services rendered at th hourly rate and that the same shall be promptly paid by client. Law firm may withdraw as counsel for client if fees are not promptly paid. Client(s) further agree(s) to pay the law firm on a monthly basis all out-of-pocket expenses advanced by law firm on client’s behalf. Said funds will not be paid from the funds in the trust account set a attorney’s fees. Funds for out-of-pocket expenses may be established in a separate trust account for that purpose or paid promptly when billed by law firm on a monthly basis as agreed by the client(s) firm. Said out-of-pocket expenses shall include but not be limited to copying costs and costs of experts, reports, records, and mileage at the IRS rate. In the event client(s) desire(s) that law firm withdraw from legal representation or law firm withdraws from said representation and the retainer fee has not been exhausted, the law firm shall be entitle portion of said retainer fee as shall be commensurate with the work performed to date by law firm for client(s). Any amounts remaining shall be refunded by law firm to client. __________________________________ (Your law firm name) By: _______________________________ (Your name) __________________________________ (Client name) Date __________________________________ 35 35
  36. 36. Online Provider Score 36
  37. 37. 21st Century Retainer Score 37
  38. 38. Heatmapshttp://uxdesign.smashingmagazine.com/2009/09/24/10-useful-usa 38
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  41. 41. Tip 10: CarolynElefant.comCarolyn.elefant@gmail.com 41

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