CanLaw: About Your Law Society
Where can I file a complaint against a lawyer?
HOW YOUR LAWYERS’ FEES ARE CALCULATED AND BILLED.
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW.
UNDERSTANDING LAWYER FEES
WHAT IS UNBUNDLING OF LEGAL SERVICES
Under a limited scope retainer, also known as an "unbundling" agreement, a lawyer or paralegal provides legal services for part, but not all, of a client's legal matter, by agreement with the client.
Some lawyers will provide a form of coaching and supervise the legal work self represented litigants (SRL) do for themselves. Self represented litigants do so usually because they cannot afford a lawyer. Nearly half of all cases are now being done by self represented litigants.
HOW YOUR LAWYERS’ FEES ARE CALCULATED AND BILLED. WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW
TYPES OF FEES
These are the usual fee arrangements used in Canada:
- Fixed Fees
- Contingency Fees
- Hourly Rates
- Percentage Fees / Value-Added Fees
- Unbundled legal service
Hourly rates are the most common type of fee. Today a $150 hour is probably the lowest rate you will find. They go up from there . . . $500 an hour is common. Know what your lawyer charges before you run up a bill.
Most lawyers have a trial rate, by day or by court appearance, and it’s often higher than their normal hourly rate.
Be sure to ask your lawyer for an estimate of the time required for your case, but keep in mind that this estimate may change.
Consider how long it takes you to earn that kind of money.
Lawyers keep records of all hours spent working on the case, known as billable hours (which covers items such as drafting letters, reading correspondence, research, meetings with other lawyers, clients and witnesses or telephone calls).
Many lawyers also charge minimum units of time for every item.
If you send an email which the lawyer reads in 30 seconds, he may charge you his minimum time of say ten minutes or 15 minutes. That can add up to a huge amount.
Depending on a lawyer's experience and location, an hourly rate can vary quite a bit. Cheaper might be better, but a more expensive and experienced lawyer could very well handle your case faster and better. At the consultation, remember to ask for an estimate of how many hours you can expect to pay for.
Flat fees are usually charged when the services being provided are more predictable. It is important to ask the lawyer exactly what services and expenses are and are not covered in a flat fee.
Fixed fees are most common for routine work like wills and real estate. Some lawyers also use fixed fees for uncontested divorces and routine criminal cases, like impaired driving, theft, and assault. You pay the amount the lawyer quotes you, regardless of how much time the lawyer spends on the case.
Contingency fees are most common in personal injury cases.
Many lawyers will only take contingency cases where they are positive the matter will settle before any trial.
The percentage of the contingency fee is usually negotiated between you and your lawyer, based on the amount of the claim less your costs, depending on the likelihood of winning your case.
If you win, you pay the lawyer part of the money you get. If you lose, you don’t pay the lawyer any fee, but you still pay expenses.
In some cases, contingent fees are prohibited.
LAWYER FEES: WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW
How do lawyers calculate their fees?
Lawyers charge for services differently, depending on the nature of your needs, the quality of services you seek and the complexity of your situation.
Fees vary from lawyer to lawyer, so be sure you know exactly how you will be charged before retaining any lawyer.
Shop around and compare lawyers, rates and types of fees. Fees are usually negotiable. Make sure you discuss what services are covered directly by the lawyer.
WHAT IS A RETAINER?
A retainer is money you pay to your lawyer as a deposit at the start of your case. The lawyer keeps this money in a trust account and uses it for fees and expenses. The lawyer bills you periodically and takes the amount you owe from the retainer. The lawyer may bill you monthly, or at the end of each stage of your case, or at the end of your case. When the retainer falls below a certain level, the lawyer asks you for more money.
The retainer is your money until "used" by the lawyer, Regardless the interest earned on your money while the lawyer holds it in trust, is paid not to you as it should be, but to the law society who have no right to it. LSO (LSUC) earns 2 to 3 million dollars a year by taking the interest which is in reality the property of the clients.
he client should be aware that the retainer fee is generally refundable if not used by the lawyer.
What is the difference between
fees and disbursements?
- Fees are the charges you pay for the lawyer's time and work on your case.
- What are disbursement fees? Disbursements are out of pocket costs the lawyer has paid on your behalf such as court fees, photocopies, travel costs and so on.
GET YOUR FEE AGREEMENT IN WRITING
Do you have a written agreement with your lawyer? Make sure you have a written agreement with your lawyer that covers fees. If your lawyer doesn't use a standard form for this, ask for a letter confirming your discussion.
Your Lawyer Automatically Has a Solicitor's Lien on Your Files.
If you do not pay your bill, the lawyer can keep your files and documents until you do
A solicitor's lien is a lawyer’s right to retain client’s property deposited with them, including crucial and original documents, until his/her bill for services and expenses has been paid in full.
ALWAYS KEEP COPIES AND INSIST YOUR LAWYER COPY YOU ON EVERYTHING PROMPTLY
PERCENTAGE FEES / VALUE-ADDED FEES
Percentage fees are based on a percentage of a specific asset or transaction, such as when buying or selling a business, collecting a debt, probating a will or executing an estate.
Value billing refers to the value a client places on the services provided by that lawyer. For example, if a job must be completed very quickly or if a client has very few options, the value of the lawyer’s service may be very high. Think about that. If you are facing a life sentence, what is your freedom worth?
HOW TO KEEP COSTS DOWN
Lawyers Charge For the Time They Spend
- Be organized, so you don’t waste time. Before you first meet with the lawyer, make a list of everything you want to say and ask.
- Make a point-form summary of your case in chronological order. Include the important details and names (with addresses, phone numbers, and other helpful information).
- Some lawyers will ask you to fill in a fact sheet before your first interview.
- Ask the lawyer if a junior colleague can do some of the routine work on your case they have lower rates.
- Be reasonable. Try to agree on the minor things that aren't worth fighting about. Save your time and money for the important things.
WHAT ARE DISBURSEMENTS?
Disbursements are expenses your lawyer pays on your behalf. You have to reimburse your lawyer for those expenses. They include costs of photocopies, faxes, long distance telephone calls, postage, couriers, experts, and court filings.
Court documents can easily reach a couple thousand photocopies in a disputed family law case for example.
Disbursements can often be a lot of money so ask your lawyer to estimate how much they will be.
ANSWERS TO THESE COMMON QUESTIONS AND MORE
- Can a lawyer charge you without telling you?
- What happens if a lawyer overcharges you?
- Can lawyer put Lien my property?
- What are lawyer contingency fees?
- Do contingency fees include expenses?
- How do I dispute an lawyer's bill?
- How is added value calculated?
- How much are lawyers per hour?
- What is a retainer?
- What are the disbursements fees?
- What is a fixed fee agreement?
- What is a fixed fee divorce?
- What does SRL mean in legal terms?
- What is a percentage fee?
- What is an SRL
CanLaw offers several services to help you find a lawyer or paralegal to help you with your legal problems. Find out when to choose a lawyer or paralegal to advise & represent you. Get free help choosing the right legal professional for different legal services
CanLaw is proudly independent and NOT AFFILIATED IN ANY WAY WITH ANY LAW SOCIETY ANYWHERE.
Asking a law society to help is like asking a snake not to bite you.
We are NOT lawyers. We caution all consumers to be very careful in dealing with any Law Society since they represent lawyers only. They do not represent you the client. CanLaw provides legal information and resources. CanLaw never provides legal advice.
The only thing more expensive than a good lawyer is a bad lawyer