Q. Where does my Retainer Deposit go when I hire a family law attorney?
A. Family Law lawyers are required to place all unearned fees into a State Bar approved Attorney Client Trust Account. California Rules of Professional Conduct, Rule 4-100.
This is because the deposit does not belong to the attorney, it belongs to the client. It is only after fees are earned or costs are expended that the attorney may remove that amount of money from their trust account. Some lawyers do not maintain or use their trust accounts, and some will take the money upon retention as though they have earned it. This can result in discipline against the lawyer.
The importance of ensuring that you attorney follows State Bar practices cannot be overstated. Do not hire a lawyer that does not maintain a trust account. One good reason for this is that if you ever terminate that attorney's employment, you want to know that the money he or she has not earned is available to be returned to you at once.