Retainers and legal fees: My personal injury lawsuit retainer agreement

Since I reminded myself in an earlier post to get a copy of this retainer agreement, I followed through with a phone call, and asked a legal assistant at Foot Lawyers PC to e-mail it.

I’m somewhat startled. My “retainer agreement” is nothing more than a form retainer torn off a pad of retainer forms, in this case form T 540 from Blumberg Law Products, Blumberg Legal Forms Online and Paper Legal Forms (but don’t even try to read it on line: you’ll have to pay them $37.40). This is a version so ancient it still assumes we’re in the 1900’s.

(As an erstwhile visitor to Blumberg’s odd but intriguing store in Lower Manhattan, I should say that from what I saw on their web site, they seem to have upgraded this particular retainer agreement; at the least, they’ve changed the form number. So maybe the “new” form reads like Dickens, not Martin Luther.)

But yep, there’s my signature down at the bottom. Good thing only my metatarsal, not my ego, was broken. No respectable lawyer should ask a client to sign a form retainer. And although I’d asked for a fully executed copy of my retainer agreement, what I got wasn’t countersigned by Basil Valentine or any other lawyer from the firm. Q. Is anyone actually representing me? A. Who knows? (I’ll have more to say about this later.)

Message to Foot Lawyers PC: why not prepare retainer letters on your letterhead, even for insignificant, good-humored clients like me?

Nevertheless, here, for absolutely no charge whatsoever, is my entire Blumberg retainer agreement with Foot Lawyers, interspersed with my insouciant commentary in red (an appropriately insouciant color):

To 

Attorney

Retainer

The word “Retainer” is printed in a font that looks ancient, as if Martin Luther used it in the 95 Theses he nailed to the Wittenburg church door. As you’ll see, the body of the retainer is loaded with bad punctuation and rather primitive language. Fun game: see if you can find all the punctuation errors and inconsistencies! See if you can identify the century in which this form was written!

The undersigned, Client, residing at [someone, not I, hand-scribbled my address], hereby retains you to prosecute or adjust a claim for damages arising from—personal injuries sustained by [my name, handwritten by that same someone who wasn’t me] [a lot of blank lines, presumably to accommodate many more of me] loss of services of [blank line]

property damage to [blank line]

on [date of my injury handwritten] through the negligence of [more blank lines] or other persons.

The Client hereby gives you the exclusive right to take all legal steps to enforce this claim through trial and appeal. The attorney shall have the right but not the obligation to represent the client on appeal.

In consideration of the services rendered and to be rendered by you, the Client agrees to pay you and you are authorized to retain out of any moneys that may come into your hand by reasons of the above claim:

Thirty three and one-third percent (33-1/3%) of the sum recovered, whether recovered by suit, settlement or otherwise. [I’m entertaining myself trying to figure out what “otherwise” could be.]

Such percentage shall be computed on the net sum recovered after deducting from the amount recovered expenses and disbursements for expert testimony and investigative or other services properly chargeable to the enforcement of the claim or prosecution of the action. In computing the fee, the costs as taxed, including interest upon a judgment, shall be deemed part of the amount recovered. For the following or similar items there shall be no deduction in computing such percentages: liens, assignments or claims in favor of hospitals, for medical care and treatment by doctors and nurses, or self-insurers or insurance carriers.

If the cause of action is settled by Client without the consent of Attorney, Client agrees to pay attorney [wait, didn’t they just capitalize “Attorney”?] the above percentage of the full amount of the settlement for the benefit of Client, to whomever paid or whatever called. The attorney [so is an “attorney” different from an “Attorney”?] shall have, in the alternative, the option of seeking compensation on a quantum meruit [if you know any Latin, you know this means “how much does this guy deserve, anyway?”] basis to be determined by the court. In such circumstances the court would determine the fair value of the service. Attorney shall have, in addition, Attorney’s taxable costs and disbursements. In the event the Client is represented on appeal by another attorney, Attorney shall have the option of seeking compensation on a quantum meruit basis to be determined by the court.

Dated February 8, 19 2008  Client [an X actually marks the spot!] [my signature] (L.S.)

Witness [blank line: nobody signed this]

Next: A really good, comprehensible retainer

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