Carolyn Elefant, author of Solo by Choice: How to be the Lawyer You Always Wanted to Be is hosting a webinar on September 6th about retainer agreements. In conjunction with the webinar she wrote an e-book, The Art, Science, and Ethics of The 21st Century Retainer Agreement. She’s offering a 10% discount to Lawyerist readers. But is the book worth your time?

What I Like About The Art, Science, and Ethics of the 21st Century Retainer Agreement

Forms. As a new lawyer, I like having forms and checklists to work from to make sure I don’t miss anything. In The Art, Science, and Ethics of the 21st Century Retainer Agreement, Elefant includes many examples of different kinds of retainer agreements. Examples are well and good, but I would have to retype them to use them for myself. The nice thing about this book is that she includes all of the samples in .doc and .pdf format. As a result, I’ve been able to copy and paste things from her samples into my existing agreements with ease.

But let’s turn to the content. The book is not about why you should have a retainer agreement or what a retainer agreement is. It assumes some understanding in that area. Instead, the book discusses different types of billing and things to consider when drafting a retainer agreement. There were some types of billing I’d never heard or thought of, and others that may not be appropriate in specific practice areas (like criminal law). She discusses:

  • The Flat Fee with Milestones Approach: Where a flat fee is broken down by certain phases and received by the lawyer in percentages at the beginning or end of a phase.
  • The Reverse Contingency Fee: Where the attorney receives a percentage of the savings achieved by the representation.
  • The Subscription Fee Arrangement: This is similar to a traditional retainer, but charges a flat fee per month and allows a roll-over option.

Of course, these are just templates and ideas that are meant to be adapted to your individual practice. She also discusses important clauses to keep in any kind of agreement, such as credit card policies, outsourcing policies, cloud computing policies, and so on. A good number of these clauses will be familiar to Lawyerist readers, but Elefant provides concrete examples that I found helpful.

She also discusses the form of the retainer agreement. How should it look, how long should it be, and how clients should sign it are all addressed in the book. I thought the section on having a well designed retainer agreement made sense, but I doubt many attorneys spend much time on making a retainer agreement look good.

What I Didn’t Like About The Art, Science, and Ethics of the 21st Century Retainer Agreement

The book is, by its very nature, a general book. In other words, since it attempts to discuss fee agreements with all lawyers, it does not drill down into specifics. Each type of billing is only given a couple pages. I would like to have read more about lawyers’ experiences using some of these unique fee arrangements. Were there professional pitfalls? Things that worked out well or didn’t pan out as expected?

Overall the book itself is 75 pages, not including the forms and examples. It contained lots of screenshots, and I think the book easily could have been longer and a bit more in–depth.

Who Should Buy The Art, Science, and Ethics of the 21st Century Retainer Agreement?

It should come as no surprise to those familiar with Elefant that the book is geared to the solo or small firm practitioner. But I don’t think every new solo needs to run out and buy this book. It lends itself more to attorneys with a wide array of practice areas. If you exclusively practice personal injury, you won’t need to draft many different types of retainer agreements. This book is better suited for the general practitioner who may need a contingent fee one day, and a subscription fee agreement a month later. For that practitioner it is a resource to come back to for explanations and examples of how to structure an agreement.

A Special Deal for Lawyerist Readers

The book and webinar cost $50 total. But Lawyerist readers can use the incredibly hard to guess code “lawyerist” for a 10% discount. Just

<a href=” target=”_blank”>click here to get your copy of The Art, Science, and Ethics of the 21st Century Retainer Agreement and register for the September 6 webinar for 10% off. If you read this after September 6th, the page will stay up. Carolyn plans to do more webinars on this topic after the 6th.


The Art, Science, and Ethics of the 21st Century Retainer Agreement

Reviewed by Josh Camson on .

Summary: This book provides helpful insight into retainer agreements, and valuable sample clauses and whole agreements for general practitioners.


  • Book Content: 3.5
  • Forms: 4.5

Overall score: 4 (out of 5)

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