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Legal retainers: Value and opportunity for mid-sized businesses

Author: Robert Lamb
4 min read
05 July 2022

Key Takeaways

  • Rapid recruitment and staffing challenges have coincided with a demand for legal advice relating to Workplace and Industrial Relations.
  • A legal retainer can prevent expensive legal problems by monitoring and implementing up-to-date policies, procedures and systems.
  • A retainer is a more cost effective and certain as fees are spread out over agreed instalments, and a fixed fee encourages everyone to solve matters as quickly and efficiently as possible.

In a business climate affected by an unsettled workforce suffering from COVID-19 hangovers and staff shortages, now more than ever businesses need at-call legal services that provide real value, create opportunity and are cashflow-friendly. 

We’ve experienced a growing demand for legal retainers, as mid-sized businesses seek ready access to advice capable of identifying and solving issues before they escalate, while enjoying the fee certainty they need.

There’s nothing new about retainers. Most businesses have at least one. Among the more common are IT service retainers, which provide ongoing system monitoring and repair for a fixed fee and rapid response expectations.

Our legal retainer approach is no different and provides a sound solution for businesses that are not large enough to require an internal legal division.

While our firm advises across business, corporate and private matters and brings expertise for a broad range of specialised legal disciplines, the need for Workplace and Industrial Relations advice currently dominates enquiry.

Case in point, we have a client who employs a few hundred staff members and because of the size and nature of that workforce, the business owner needed to engage us with regular frequency to solve Fair Work matters.

Workplace problems can escalate into fully fledged legal action quickly and this can bring unwelcome side-affects including negative chatter within the team and bad press that can taint an employer’s reputation.

For our client, like many businesses, these types of issues divert attention from achieving core business goals. The considerable time and cost associated with business owners and/or their executives attending mediation or mandated conferences in an attempt to resolve issues with the employee(s) was also of concern to them. 

We suggested, and they accepted our offer of an annual legal retainer.

Legal retainers provide certainty for both the receiver of services and the provider, as the payment terms which includes a total annual fee paid monthly, advantages both cashflow-wise.

It also guarantees efficiencies as the client is eager for a fast resolution, and so are we.

There’s nothing like a fixed fee to motivate efficiency and advice that resolves matters quickly. Protracted legal actions are in neither party’s best interests.

Apart from solving problems, our retainer relationship has enabled us to become part of our client’s inner circle. 

It’s this close level of involvement that affords access for exposing problems and identifying opportunities outside our regular sphere of engagement.  

This level of professional familiarity drives our legal intuition and develops something of a peripheral vision that can reveal issues and overcome them before they develop.

This was the case for our client mentioned earlier.

We were able to dig into their policies and procedures and found their systems and documents were outdated, which exposed them to a range of potentially expensive and disruptive workplace claims.

They, as is common with many business owners, had avoided reviewing and updating important policies and procedures, due to what they perceived would be significant legal cost.

Our retainer arrangement enabled these issues to be resolved within the annual budgeted fee.  New policies, procedures and systems for our client’s entire HR operation were implemented. The result was a significant decrease in Fair Work, dismissal and employment legal matters as well as numerous other benefits.

Value-wise, our client was able to report tangible evidence both financially and in terms of opportunity.

From a financial perspective, their annual legal expense decreased significantly and because our fee was paid in agreed monthly instalments, it smoothed out previously higher and more lumpy expenditure associated with ad hoc advice that was often engaged once a problem had escalated. 

Ready access to our legal expertise and our growing familiarity and depth of understanding of our client’s business affairs, also translated to business confidence that enabled them to act on opportunities quickly, knowing they have informed legal back up for managing otherwise ‘what if’ situations.

We believe legal retainers provide a strong case for medium-sized businesses who find themselves in regular need of legal advice but struggle with the uncertainty of cost. 

Employment matters that include retaining staff and attracting new recruits while protecting employer rights are currently in the spotlight, however, the need for workplace, industrial relations, contract law and litigation will remain constant for business owners throughout their business life-cycle. 

Next steps…

In my view, it’s better to implement solutions in advance than regret inaction on the inevitable.  We are experienced and knowledgeable lawyers with a comprehensive range of legal disciplines available in house, which are at your disposal via our legal retainer model. 

To get in contact and make a time to discuss your personal circumstances simply send us an email or call 07 3220 1144.

This article was originally published by Executive Strategies here.

The information in this blog is intended only to provide a general overview and has not been prepared with a view to any particular situation or set of circumstances. It is not intended to be comprehensive nor does it constitute legal advice. While we attempt to ensure the information is current and accurate we do not guarantee its currency and accuracy. You should seek legal or other professional advice before acting or relying on any of the information in this blog as it may not be appropriate for your individual circumstances.

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