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
- 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
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:
If you're ready to find a lawyer now, you can search our FindLaw Lawyer Directory.
- findings of professional misconduct or conduct unbecoming a licensee
- details of orders resulting from those findings
- whether there are any licence restrictions.
Law Society of Upper Canada: http://www.lsuc.on.ca/with.aspx?id=1064
Law Society of British Columbia: http://www.lawsociety.bc.ca/page.cfm?cid=8&t=Finding-a-Lawyer