A retainer is the typical method of hiring a defense attorney. It is usually an up-front payment for the attorney’s services to represent a client on charge(s) in a particular court.
While many consultations are free of charge, the retainer fee for an attorney’s services will vary greatly depending on the nature of the charge(s) and facts of the case, as well as the attorney’s experience in a particular area of law and their reputation within the community.
Generally speaking, you wouldn’t need to hire a 30-year veteran trial attorney who handles murder cases to fight, say, a minor traffic ticket. On the other hand, you wouldn’t want a business or family law lawyer who never handles such matters. You should seek a knowledgeable attorney at a reasonable rate whom you feel will represent you well.
Retaining a skilled attorney to represent you in court is essential in safeguarding all of your legal rights. (If you are unable to afford an attorney, the court is required to appoint one to you, because you have a Constitutional right to the assistance of counsel for your defense).