Understanding the Basics of UAE lawyer Retainer Fees and Legal Services.

Retainer services are a crucial tool for businesses and individuals to secure access to expert legal help in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). This guide from an experienced Emirati lawyer explores everything you need to know if considering retainer representation.

Defining Legal Retainers

retainer agreement allows a client to pay an upfront fee to an attorney or law firm to guarantee their availability for legal advice or services during a defined period. There are three main types of legal retainers:

  • General Retainers cover a broad range of potential issues a client may face
  • Specific Retainers relate to a particular case, project or specialty area
  • Security Retainers ensure funds are available to pay expected legal fees

Retainers offer budgeting control and give clients “on call” access to expert legal guidance. For law firms, they provide financial stability and the chance to build lasting client relationships.

“A legal retainer is like an insurance policy – giving you peace of mind by securing legal support when challenges arise.”

Crafting Retainer Agreements in the UAE

Any retainer starts with a clearly drafted contract outlining:

  • Services covered: Advice areas, projects, tasks
  • Term: Period agreement remains active
  • Fees: Upfront payment amount, replenishment terms
  • Billing: Payment frequency, hourly charges
  • Early termination: Ability to end agreement

In the UAE, retainer terms must comply with local laws around areas like confidentiality and service standards. Review by a legal specialist is recommended prior to signing.

Managing Retainer Accounts and Funds

In the UAE, retainers are typically paid in advance then managed through the attorney’s client trust account. As work is performed, the lawyer “earns” portions of the retainer. The unused balance belongs to the client and must be returned upon ending the engagement.

Law firms should have registered trust accounts (IOLTA accounts) to receive advance payments and carefully track how retainer funds are earned. Retainers cannot be claimed as earned until corresponding work is complete.

Key UAE Laws Governing Retainer Accounts

  • Lawyer’s Duties of Confidentiality (Article 46, Federal Law 23/1991)
  • Maintaining Client Accounts (Article 90, Federal Law 23/1991)
  • Rules for Managing Client Money (Council of Ministers Decision No. 10/1980)

“Effective retainer account management protects the interests of both client and counsel while ensuring compliance.”

Determining Retainer Fees

Retainer payments depend first on whether an hourly or flat fee billing model is used:

  • Flat Fees: A defined sum paid upfront for services
  • Hourly Rates: Fees accrue based on time spent

Hybrid approach: Blend flat fee with hourly billing for certain services

Beyond the billing method, several factors affect UAE retainer amounts including:

  • Lawyer experience and specialty
  • Firm reputation and resources
  • Client budget and legal needs
  • Required tasks and anticipated case complexity

Retainer tiers let firms offer multiple pricing options aligned to service levels. Discounted fees may apply for higher retainers.

Essential Guidelines for UAE Retainer Agreements

To ensure proper use of retainers and align incentives, UAE law firms should:

✔️ Provide clear communication on scope of services, available hours/tasks, billing practices and fee structure

✔️ Send periodic invoices so clients understand how the retainer is being applied

✔️ React swiftly if the retainer balance gets low, discussing replenishment with the client

✔️ Return any unearned fees promptly upon terminating an engagement

“Aligning expectations upfront through transparent communication and agreements avoids misunderstandings down the road.”


  • Retainers secure reliable access to legal support and provide income stability
  • Customized retainer agreements are essential
  • Compliance with UAE trust account laws builds confidence
  • Clear communication and alignment of expectations is crucial

Frequently Asked Questions About UAE Legal Retainers

What are some key benefits of a legal retainer?

Retainers provide guaranteed access to expert legal counsel along with cost control, proactive risk mitigation and potentially discounted hourly rates. They incentivize attorneys to prioritize clients with retainers when urgent issues arise.

What typical services do retainers cover in the UAE?

Common services covered include telephone and email consultations, contract/document drafting and review, litigation assistance, intellectual property filings, employment/HR guidance and general commercial advice.

Can I get a refund if my legal needs decrease?

Refund availability depends on your retainer agreement. Unused balances from advance payment retainers must be returned upon request or once representation ends. General retainers with flat fees tend not to offer refunds.

What trends are shaping the future of legal retainers?

We see further adoption of flexible fee structures, tiered retainer options and specialized legal tech tools supporting automated billing and trust account management. The convenience of “on demand” virtual legal retainers is also growing.

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1 thought on “Understanding the Basics of UAE lawyer Retainer Fees and Legal Services.”

  1. Avatar for Rafique Suleman

    Dear Sir/Madam,
    I have a dispute with the developer on who is liable to pay VAT. The following is the brief set of facts of the case:
    Phase I
    I booked a hotel room unit off plan with a developer in July 2014.
    A Reservation Form was signed by both parties.
    The form specified the price, payment schedule and relevant details of the unit.
    The form was silent on VAT.
    I had started making payment as per the schedule.
    Meanwhile, and to-date no registration is done with DLD, as no signed SPA was arranged.  
    Phase II
    I received a draft of SPA on Jan 21, 2018. There are some terms and conditions that are in dispute and are being negotiated.
    The only agreed document to-date is the signed Reservation Form that is still silent on VAT. I understand that the developer should have negotiated with me before Jan. 01, 2018 on the price stated therein, that it did not do and price in Reservation Form sustains, accordingly.
    The developer does not intend to implement Transitional Rules stipulated in VAT law and insisting that VAT is buyer’s liability.
    Secondly, the developer is asking me to remit to it Fee for Registration with DLD,  immediately, otherwise there will be penalty and I shall be liable to pay the penalty. It is referring to a DLD notification about deadline for registration dated June 25, 2015 in Arabic (copy attached). I understand that the date of signed SPA will be considered the date of purchase for counting of the days of delay in making application for the registration with DLD.
    (Contd. in page 2 of 2)

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