Can I get my retainer back from a law firm?

Q: I recently hired a law firm, but the attorney that I spoke to transferred my case to one of his partners without my consent. I paid the firm $3,500 for the retainer. However, since they changed my attorney without my consent or prior knowledge I no longer wish to do business with this firm. (The initial attorney told me that I would be working with him exclusively and then threw in partners and paralegals after payment was made) I did not sign anything (they do have a form). The “contract” is oral. Since firm has done no work for me yet (initial consultation was free), can I ask for my $3,500 back? Since there is no signed contract another attorney who is a friend told me to contact my credit card company to process a charge back if they don’t comply with my request. (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: If you have no signed contract, and work has not begun, you have a good chance in getting your retainer back. You need to act as soon as possible before they can bill for work. I would call first thing in the morning, send an email and hand deliver a letter to the firm, or if not overnight it with some sort of confirmation. You could also call your credit card company and stop payment or file a dispute, but you need to do that asap.


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