The Importance of Having a Retained Counsel

Most people have heard of a “retainer fee” or “legal retainer.” There are times that when a problem concerning the law comes up, their friends would advise them to “retain an attorney.” So what exactly does it mean to retain the services of a lawyer and what are its advantages?

A “retainer” is a fee paid to the lawyer, often monthly or annually, to retain or keep the lawyer available to the client. This type of fee is often paid by corporations and other business organizations to make sure they have access to their lawyers whenever they need advice or representation. A true retainer is usually non-refundable. In most cases, the lawyer shall provide the prospective client a Retainership Proposal that outlines the services the same is entitled to by virtue of the retainer fee such as, but not limited to, legal consultation and document review.

Now, how is this different from “legal fees” and “costs?”

On the one hand, legal fees are paid to a lawyer for his advice and services or advice and services provided by his firm while costs, on the other hand, are other expenses, such as filing fees, copying costs, or expert witness fees that the lawyer is paying to others on the client’s behalf. Usually the client is required to pay all costs as they are incurred or as part of a regular billing. In several cases, lawyers may likewise require a deposit called a “mobilization fund” from which he shall charge any and all of the said out-of-pocket expenses that may be incurred relative to the client’s cause. Any excess therefrom may either be reimbursed to the client or be deducted from the legal fees due to the lawyer.

Having a retained legal counsel on hand provides clients with a sense of security that whenever they would require the services of a lawyer, the same is available. Moreover, entering into a retainer also ensures that legal fees for services not covered by the retainership agreement shall be charged at a significantly discounted rate as opposed to those that have not entered into a retainer.

From my own personal experience, I have encountered several prospective clients who only seek the advice and assistance of a lawyer when their problems have already blown up on their faces. I usually tell them that they should have sought the counsel of a competent attorney even at the onset of their new business endeavor, as in from the time they incorporate their corporations or establish their business partnership. It is quite similar to having periodic check-ups with the physician or dentist so as to detect and deter any developing sickness rather than doing so only when the disease has already become terminal.

So just as it is important for everyone to have a regular family or personal physicians, whether general practitioners or specialists, it is no less true when it comes to securing the services of an attorney in order to protect your rights and interests in this dog-eat-dog world.

The Methods of Pastoral Counseling

As with all new lawyers, after I took my oath and signed the Roll of Attorneys, thereby becoming a full-fledged licensed counselor and attorney-at-law, I was so excited to begin my practice. However, little did I know that law school did not prepare me to do so! Yes, I knew the law, both substantive and procedural, but I knew nothing about the professional or “business” aspect of building my own law office. I realized that I did not know how to properly set up and conduct an interview with a prospective client and worse, I had no idea how much to charge for my services! I was so dumbfounded that I just tried calling up older and more experienced lawyers to ask them for some advice. The only thing was, there were almost as many different methods and styles as there are law practitioners. During that time, and even now after six years of law practice, I really wished that all law schools would include in their curriculum a subject on “How to Set Up and Manage a Law Office.”

Likewise, the same thing is true with regard to the practice or ministry of pastoral counseling. Fortunately for me, I am now learning in seminary the things that I should have learned in law school, particularly, how to arrange and conduct an effective client interview. According to Dr. Clyde Narramore, a renowned clinical psychologist and counselor, effective counselors are conscious of details and thus give careful thought to such arrangements as: (a) setting the appointment; (b) preparing the interview; (c) beginning the interview; (d) determining the length of the interview; (e) closing the interview; (f) recording the interview; and (g) handling persistent cases. In his seminal book, The Psychology of Counseling, he provides basic guidelines therefor. He further stressed that counseling is different from a lecture or seminar where one person merely passes on information to other people because in counseling, both the counselor and the counselee undergo a process which doesn’t necessarily end after one session.

Dr, Narramore also discussed the need for counselors to give their best attention to their clients taking into account not only the latter’s words but also their demeanor in order for the former to adequately assess and analyze the latter’s problems and hence, provide effective solutions. That is why in setting an appointment, possible distractions must be minimized if not totally eliminated so that not even the minutest detail can escape the attention of the counselor. Lastly, Dr. Narramore stressed the value of discussion. He said that contrary to popular belief that “talk is cheap,” talking actually helps a person think clearly by putting into words the concepts he has in mind. In doing so, good ideas are sifted from bad ones. It helps us define just what we really do think. It shows up the true issue and points out possible danger or good.

Due to their similarities, the lessons I am currently learning about pastoral counseling can also readily be applied to legal counseling. Observing these basic steps will certainly make one a good counselor, whether pastoral or legal.