UPDATE: March 23, 2016: John Balent has changed his retainer agreement from the one originally shown below. The new retainer removes the langauage that no portion of his retainer is refundable and replaces it with language that is is refundable. However, good luck gettting any portion of your retainer back from him as he has a history of bill padding and our guess would be when you ask for a refund you will receive a bill going over your retainer. You can view the new retainer Here.
Let's dissect John Balent's Retainer Agreement.
Below is a sample of a mostly blank Retainer Agreement provided to us by a former client. The amount of your retainer and the hourly rate may differ from what was prefilled in on this one. This Retainer Agreement is from February of 2013.
You'll notice that is an extremely simple looking document, almost like it was written by a middle schooler as opposed to someone who claims to be Dedicated Exclusively to Family Law Since 1976." It's the simplicity of this document that we believe fools most clients into thinking it's a flat fee agreement and are later blindsided by John Balent's lump billing tactics. You'll notice this agreement says nothing about increments of billing (10th of an hour, 6 minutes is considered the standard) and there are no provisions for items such as travel, work performed by non attorneys, etc. The California Bar Association provides attorneys with samples of how their fee agreements should look. You can view those sample fee agreements Here. You'll notice massive differences between how a fee agreement should read versus John Balent's fee agreement.
Why is it John Balent's Retainer Agreement is so simple?
With experience touted as going back to 1976 you would think he'd very well educated on how one should look? Then again you would also expect that he would know that Lump Billing is frowned upon practice in his industry too. We believe the Retainer is so simple to deceive the client to gain employment, just like his False Advertising, but the agreement has two very important lines in it that John Balent should be very fully aware should not be in his contract. These lines are:
"CLIENT agrees that the RETAINER FEE is paid to induce JOHN A. BALENT to become CLIENTS attorney and said fee is paid solely for the purpose of insuring the availability of the attorney for this matter."
"No portion of the retainer is ever refundable"
Okay, excuse our French, but we call "Bullshit" on both of these lines in John Balent's Retainer agreement. Both lines are "self serving" to John Balent so he can make claim to either keep your money or as an excuse not to fire him (Because he will claim there are no refunds) and he knows full well that the rules of Professional Conduct state otherwise. John Balent is treating his Retainer Agreement like a "true retainer agreement" where a client pays a fee
only for the purposes of retaining an attorney's availability. But John Balent uses your funds in the fashion of a "Classic Retainer" which means he subtracts hourly fees from the retainer fee originally paid to him. Therefore this makes your money refundable immediately following his termination per the Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 3-700(D), which reads as follows:
"(D) Papers, Property, and Fees.
A member whose employment has terminated shall:
(1) Subject to any protective order or non-disclosure agreement, promptly release to the client, at the request of the client, all the client papers and property. "Client papers and property" includes correspondence, pleadings, deposition transcripts, exhibits, physical evidence, expert's reports, and other items reasonably necessary to the client's representation, whether the client has paid for them or not; and
(2) Promptly refund any part of a fee paid in advance that has not been earned. This provision is not applicable to a true retainer fee which is paid solely for the purpose of ensuring the availability of the member for the matter"
There is also an excellent arbitration advisory on the subject "true" Versus "Classic" Retainers titled ENFORCEMENT OF
“NON-REFUNDABLE” RETAINER PROVISIONS that we strongly recommend you read as it should better help you understand how John Balent is attempting to distinguish the funds you have paid him. It will make you wonder why John Balent uses this language in his Retainer Agreement. Please do be sure to read the "Getting Your Money Back" section on our menu as there is a proper way to fire John Balent so that the "True Retainer" clause cannot be used by John Balent. In a nutshell, you need to make sure you have a billing statement that shows money being applied against your retainer fee.....And it always does!
The retainer agreement shown above may also differ slightly from yours. We are aware that agreements drawn up in 2009 had the anticipated costs prefigured in and the Retainer Agreement also contained this line"
Attorney does maintain error and omissions insurance coverage applicable to the services to be rendered."
So at some point between 2009 and 2013 John Balent stopped carrying malpractice insurance. Our guess is that he could no longer afford it as he also moved into cheaper office space and a former Paralegal of John Balent stated that she was let go because they were downsizing.