May 19, 2022

Legal retainers: Value and opportunity for mid-sized businesses

Legal Retainers

In a business climate affected by an unsettled workforce suffering from COVID-19 hangovers and staff shortages, now more than ever mid-sized businesses, and not just in the mining and resources sector, need at-call legal retainer 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 legal advice capable of identifying and solving issues before those issues escalate, while enjoying the fee certainty that such businesses need.

There’s nothing new about retainers. Most businesses have at least one. I am a business owner.  My business, like many have for example, an IT service retainer which provides ongoing system monitoring and repairs for a fixed fee and rapid response expectations.

Our legal retainer approach is no different and provides a sound solution for mid-sized businesses not quite of a size that requires 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 and Merger and Acquisition activities currently dominate enquiry from mid-size businesses.

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

Workplace problems can escalate quickly into fully fledged legal action and this can bring unwelcome side-effects including negativity within the team and bad press that can taint a business’ reputation.

For our client, as is the case for many medium-sized businesses, these types of issues divert attention from achieving core business goals. Like most businesses the legal issues were dealt with once the problem had occurred and of course then the costs and time pressures were greater.  The considerable time and cost associated with business owners or their executives dealing with such matters and attending mediation or mandated conferences in an attempt to resolve issues with the employee(s) concerned them and of course diverted them from their business.

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

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

A retainer relationship also guarantees efficiencies as both we and the client are eager for fast, effective resolutions and to pre-emptively prevent issues from arising.

There’s nothing like a fixed fee to motivate efficiency and advice that resolves matters quickly. Protracted legal actions are in no one’s interests.

Apart from solving problems, our retainer relationship enabled us to understand our client’s business and their goals.

This close level of involvement affords access for us to discover 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 those issues before they develop into something far more serious.

This was the case for our client.

We were able to review their policies and procedures and discovered their systems and documents were outdated and this exposed the business 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 costs of doing so.

The retainer arrangement, enabled these issues to be resolved within the annual budgeted retainer 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 and a reduction in stress, time, distraction and cost of addressing such matters.

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

From a financial perspective, they reported that their annual legal expense had 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 mostly sought once a problem had occurred or 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, are not proactive because of the perceived costs or inability to identify issues and risks until they have become a significant problem.

Employment matters that include retaining staff and attracting new recruits while protecting employment rights are currently in the spotlight, however, the need for workplace, industrial relations, contract law, property law and commercial legal advice will remain relatively constant for business owners throughout their business life-cycle.  Having certainty, at least in terms of your legal costs, simply makes good business sense.

Next steps…

In my view, it’s better to implement solutions in advance than regret inaction.  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.

Your next step for investigating at-call legal representation for your business is simply to find out more.  I invite you to give me a call.

Please contact Robert Lamb on +61 (0) 7 3007 2000 or email

Resources Unearthed is a solutions hub that provides integrated financial, legal, property, accounting and business advisory services for executives, professionals and business owners in the mining and resources sectors.

The information in this article 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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