Retainer agreements to let your lawyers call a firm whenever they want

Harvard Pilgrim’s general counsel, Laura Peabody, explained her law department’s retainer agreements. Speaking at a panel covered by the Nat’l Law J., Dec. 12, 2008, Peabodyexplains that “she has a labor and employment boutique and an Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) boutique on a monthly retainer so that her legal staff can call and ask those firms questions anytime. At the end of each year, all the firms and Harvard Pilgrim evaluate the firms’ work for the contracts that need adjustment.”

Retainers such as Peabody’s make sense (See my post of Aug. 26, 2005: yawns from law departments on retainers paid quarterly in advance; Oct. 14, 2005: retainers and prompt payment; Aug. 26, 2005: retainer billing and budget control; May 11, 2008: monthly flat fees for major litigation; Oct. 30, 2006: historical use of retainers to conflict out firms; and Nov. 15, 2005: retainer compared to fixed or flat fee.).

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