What if I lose my case? Do I owe you any money?

It depends. The retainer agreement that you sign will specify whether you are responsible for reimbursing your lawyer for his expenses at the end of the case. The retainer agreement may state that you are responsible to reimburse the lawyer at the end of the case regardless of whether you win or lose your case. This could be devastating for you, as the case expenses often exceed $50,000, and you may not be able to afford $500, much less $50,000.

Most clients simply sign the retainer agreement without reading it and then lose the retainer agreement. You should keep an original, fully signed retainer agreement in a safe location, i.e., safety deposit box, throughout the lawsuit. At the end of their case, clients are often unaware of the percentage of the legal fee (most assume it is one-third legal fee, which is prohibited in malpractice cases in New York) and they are not aware of how the legal fee is calculated. The answers to these questions can be found in the retainer agreement.

You must read the retainer agreement very carefully. After you read the retainer agreement, make sure that the retainer agreement is crystal clear as to whether you will be responsible for case expenses even if you do not win your case. If the retainer agreement specifies that you are responsible for case expenses regardless of whether you win or lose your case, ask the lawyer whether that provision can be removed from retainer agreement.