If you need a lawyer, you should be aware of what a good one can do for you. They will carefully review your legal issue and consider all the options that are available to you. Once you have decided on a course of action, the lawyer will explain all the fees that will be involved and will give you a fee agreement in writing.
Don't be intimidated by the thought of hiring a lawyer. Their job is to help you find the best solution to your legal issue. Here are some examples of when it’s best to hire a lawyer:
- You were in a car accident, slip and fall, or other accident and suffered an injury.
- You were accused of a crime, DUI, or other violation.
- You’re facing a family problem such as divorce or child custody dispute.
If any of these factors sound like you, you should consider talking with several lawyers before choosing one. Get started now by browsing or searching for lawyers who match your needs in our FindLaw Lawyer Directory.
When finding a lawyer, they will be base their fees on several factors such as the lawyer’s overhead costs, their reputation in the field, your legal issue, and what other lawyers might charge for similar advice. Your lawyer can explain the billing structure to you and also any legal terms you might not understand.
The most common legal fees are as follows:
- Contingency fee: Cases involving personal injury, product liability, class actions, and insurance claims are often done on a contingency basis, where the lawyer charges a fee based on a percentage of the money the client wins in a lawsuit. If no money is recovered, the lawyer generally collects no fee.
- Flat fee: This is a fixed fee for all work regardless of the time involved. This method of billing is often used for specific transactions such as incorporating a business or purchasing a house. Some lawyers also use a flat fee for specific types of court appearances, such as defending a client on a minor criminal charge.
- Hourly rate: This popular form of payment is broadly applied by lawyers to cover costs associated with time spent on the phone, in meetings, doing research, preparing documents, dealing with correspondence, appearing in court, and anything else involving your file. Hourly rates usually reflect the lawyer's skill and experience — senior lawyers charge more per hour than lawyers who are just starting out in practice.
You will also need to understand the following terms when talking to a legal representative:
- Consultation: This is an initial conversation with a lawyer, during which the client reveals the basics about their legal dilemma and the lawyer decides whether or not to take the case. Most lawyers offer this discussion free of charge.
- Retainer: This is an upfront fee the lawyer charges in order to take the case. Your lawyer will submit accounts to you, which will be paid from the retainer.
- Engagement letter: Is a written notice confirming the terms of the engagement between a legal representative and their client that states the client’s goals and the specific legal services that they will receive from the lawyer or paralegal.
- Disbursements: These are expenses incurred by your lawyer on your behalf such as government fees, court filing fees, courier charges, photocopying costs or fees paid for expert reports from people such as doctors or engineers. You are responsible for these expenses and they will be included in your legal bill.
Some people may already know a lawyer or may be referred to one through a friend or family member. While this is a good way to find a lawyer, sometimes you will need a lawyer with specialist skills and experience. This is where the FindLaw Lawyer Directory can help. You can use our database to find a lawyer by location and legal issue.
Ask about fees before you schedule a meeting. The initial conversation with a lawyer should help you decide whether they will be the best person to help with your case. Write down any answers you receive so you can compare them with any other lawyers you may choose to meet with.
Questions you might want to ask a lawyer:
- Have they handled similar cases previously with success?
- What are the terms of the lawyer fee agreement?
- What is the range of possible outcomes for your case, including rough estimates of time and cost?
- Will your case be a priority for the lawyer: do they have enough time to devote?
- Can the lawyer provide references from other clients?
Additional information available through your provincial law society
You may contact the law society in your province or territory to confirm a lawyer or licensed paralegal is entitled to provide legal services. This will help you make an informed decision on whether or not the person you are thinking of hiring is right for you.
Your local law society can inform you about the status of the lawyer or licensed paralegal, including:
- if s/he is currently providing legal services
- whether there are restrictions on his/her practice
- the nature of those restrictions, if applicable
- whether the lawyer or paralegal's licence is currently suspended.
You may also ask about the licensee's discipline history, including:
- findings of professional misconduct or conduct unbecoming a licensee
- details of orders resulting from those findings
- whether there are any licence restrictions.
If you're ready to find a lawyer now, you can search our FindLaw Lawyer Directory
Law Society of Upper Canada
Law Society of British Columbia