How does a retainer work?

Before I can begin working on your case, I ask that you sign an engagement letter, which is my contract for services, and you make an initial retainer payment.  The way a retainer works is simple.  Once you pay the initial retainer, we deposit it into a trust account, called an I.O.L.T.A. (Interest on Lawyer's Trust Account) account on your behalf.  We then bill from that account for the time it takes me or my staff, to draft pleadings, attend hearings, send letters, respond to phone calls and emails, and perform any other work on your behalf.  As tasks are completed each month, for example, if an Original Petition for Divorce is drafted, we pull from that account after we have completed the work.  If after your case is finalized, you have a money left over in your I.O.L.T.A. account, we refund those monies to you.  If your case becomes more complicated, and we exhaust your initial retainer payment, then we ask you to make an additional retainer payment, or we get you on a payment plan.  We send out bills once a month, so you can see what work has been done on  your case, and monitor your retainer balance.

What is a retainer?  What is IOLTA?

 A retainer is the initial payment that is made to our firm and put in a trust account, called an I.O.L.T.A. (Interest on Lawyer's Trust Account) on your behalf.  I.O.L.T.A. accounts are governed by the State Bar, and the interest in these accounts gets gathered and used to fund legal aid and justice programs around the state.  (To learn more, visit   Each lawyer should have an I.O.L.T.A. account where they deposit the money that you pay them for attorney's fees, and when the work is done it is transferred to the lawyer's operating account.