How much will it cost me to hire a lawyer?
There is no standard fee schedule for legal services. Lawyers use various types of fees for service.
The cost of having a lawyer represent you should be discussed at the first meeting. The lawyer’s fees should be fair and reasonable and will be based on a number of factors:
- the lawyer’s experience and skill;
- the difficulty of the matter;
- the time and effort it takes to complete the work;
- the standard rate charged by other lawyers of equal standing in like matters and circumstances.
Some common lawyer fees are:
- fixed or flat fee – a fee that is charged for a certain type of legal work such as a Will or a real estate transaction.
- hourly rate fee – the rate a lawyer charges for services on an hourly basis. The rates vary depending on the lawyer and the nature of the work involved. You will be charged according to the number of hours the lawyer spends on your legal issue which could include time spent by your lawyer on the phone, in meetings, doing research, preparing documents, dealing with correspondence from others, appearing in court and anything else involving your file.
- retainer fee – a deposit made in advance to cover the early costs; it is payment towards your final bill. As the work progresses you may be required to pay another retainer to cover on-going costs.
- contingency fee – you will not be charged a fee until your case is settled. This is typically a percentage of the money the client receives. If no money is recovered, the lawyer generally collects no fee. The contingency fee agreement may require you to pay your lawyer’s disbursements regardless of what the outcome of the case is. Contingency fees are often used in personal injury claims.
- expenses – these are expenses paid for by your lawyer on your behalf such as land titles fees, court filing fees, courier charges, photocopying costs and fees paid for expert reports. They are often referred to as “disbursements”. You are responsible for these expenses and they will be included in your bill.
- GST – lawyers are required to charge GST on all fees and most expenses.
Find out from the lawyer:
- the types of fees the lawyer will charge;
- the basis for the lawyer’s charges;
- an estimate, in writing, of the cost to conclude your legal issue, including costs in addition to legal fees;
- if another lawyer or other professional will be involved in resolving your issue and how much they charge;
- the cost of the retainer if one is required;
- what the lawyer’s percentage will be if services are provided under a contingency fee arrangement;
- the likelihood of anything happening that may increase the cost;
- how you will be informed if your cost is likely to increase due to unusual or unforeseen circumstances so that you can make an informed decision;
- the lawyer’s billing schedule and when you are expected to pay;
- your options for payment of fees and other costs;
- the cost of interest charges on overdue accounts;
- suggestions for keeping your costs down.
The lawyer will not be able to give you an exact cost for legal services at the first meeting, but the lawyer should be able to provide an approximate amount, based on the cost of concluding matters similar to yours. Be prepared for additional costs as the work proceeds on your matter.
If the lawyer does not already do so, you should request a retainer agreement which is a written estimate for the services they will provide and fee agreement. This will help avoid disputes later.
Sometimes a lawyer will give you a Statement of Account while your matter is on-going. You may be expected to pay upon receipt of the Statement. On other occasions, the lawyer will wait until your matter is concluded before billing you. You should discuss the bill with the lawyer, including any concerns you have about the amount of the bill.
What should I do if I feel my lawyer’s fees are too high?
The Law Society of Yukon does not have jurisdiction to address complaints or disputes between you and your lawyer regarding fees.
The lawyer’s bill should show the services provided, who did the work and the cost associated with the service. It should also show the cost of disbursements which are expenses paid by the lawyer while working on your behalf; you will be expected to reimburse the lawyer for these expenses.
If you think the amount of the bill is unreasonable or you do not understand some items on the bill, ask the lawyer to explain the charges. If you are not able to come to an agreement with your lawyer on the amount you owe you may have your account ‘taxed’. This is a review of your bill by a Clerk of the Court who will determine if the charges are fair and reasonable. You should do this very soon after receiving your bill. It is possible that your lawyer will decide to have the bill taxed if the dispute over the amount of the bill cannot be resolved.
To get your account taxed contact the Clerk of the Yukon Supreme Court. The Clerk is located at the Court Registry, Law Courts Building at 2130 – 2nd Avenue, Whitehorse, or call 867-667-5441.