Is an engagement fee refundable if a lawyer did not earn it?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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Is an engagement fee refundable if a lawyer did not earn it?

I pay a engagement fee to a Michigan lawyer of $2500 to retain him in case my friend had a case file against her for petty theft. They store never filed charges and the lawyer never had to do any work. The fee agreement state that the engagement fee is non-refundable but he did not do any work/earn it. Am I entitled to a refund? Basically I handed him $2500 just in case the store did filed a lawsuit against my friend and we would need to call him. That never happened and over a year have passed so the store cannot file a case now.

Asked on April 16, 2017 under Criminal Law, Michigan


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

You agreed to a non-refundable fee in accepting that fee agreement; you are held to it. If you did not want the lawyer to keep your fee for doing no work, you should have negotiated a different agreement or gone to a different attorney; however, by accepting these terms, you let him keep the fee no matter what.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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