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I asked a law firm to prepare a separation agreement for me. I already paid them about half of the costs.

Now they insist that I'm entitled to much more than we agreed to with my ex-partner. I'm fine with that since I want to keep the separation amicable.

They asked me to sign an indemnity agreement with them. I have trouble parsing the agreement since it's written in legalese; they assure me that it's pretty standard. I asked them if they would refund what I already paid them if I don't sign it, and they said that it was non-refundable.

The agreement is giving me a pause because I don't feel I have to be required to hire another lawyer to interpret this lawyer's indemnity agreement for me.

Are those agreements in principle a usual thing?

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    It sounds like they want it to be clear that they informed you that you could have gotten you more money and you declined. If that is the goal, the principle seems sound but the details matter too. – George White Jan 17 '19 at 7:10
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I have trouble parsing the agreement since it's written in legalese

You should have posted the clause(s) that are unclear to you. Also, it is often a good idea to consult a legal dictionary so as (1) to ascertain the meaning of certain terms, and (2) to gain exposure to legalese.

they assure me that it's pretty standard.

That means nothing (and this is not criticism at you, but at the attorney's conclusory assertion). It is also "pretty standard" for many lawyers to charge their clients very dearly in exchange for ineffective or outright incompetent advocacy. What matters is the context of your case and the contents of the clause(s).

As this comment rightly points out, the purpose of the clause at issue might be to evidence that you declined the law firm's pursuit of your best [economic] interest.

Alternatively, the clause could be devised to ultimately entice you to needlessly extend your litigation. That type of malpractice is quite common in U.S. courts. See, for instance, this report denouncing that lawyers for both parties in divorce cases collude to drag proceedings for as long as their clients have money to keep paying attorney fees.

The language of that "indemnity" agreement may even serve to immunize the law firm for other mistakes/malpractice (if any) that currently might not be evident to you.

These are just some possibilities. As the aforementioned comment points out, the details matter.

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This is quite unusual.

Normally, if a client wants to do something contrary to a lawyer's advice, the lawyer will send you a "CYA" (cover your ass) letter, that tells you that they recommended course of action X and you decided instead to take course of action Y. I have never had a client execute an indemnity agreement in more than two decades as a lawyer and I've never seen anyone else ask that of a client either.

For what it is worth, I have done a moderate amount of family law work (at least one or two cases a year and often more) in both New York State and in Colorado. Perhaps regional practice somewhere else is different.

This is quite problematic, although strictly speaking not necessarily unethical or illegal (although it comes close), and I would suspect that there is more wrong than they are letting on.

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