Be sure you know what the lawyer will charge and what extras may come up for disbursements



When you see a lawyer, ask about fees the first time you meet.

Lawyers should be able to tell you how they will calculate the fee and when they will bill you.

They usually can’t give you a firm estimate of the total cost because it depends on many things that are hard to estimate, including the time a case will take.

Your lawyer will estimate on the high side. You need to dicker to get a good dealTYPES OF FEES

These are the usual fee arrangements used in Canada


  • Fixed Fees
  • Contingency Fees
  • Hourly Rates
  • Percentage Fees / Value-Added Fees



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 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.


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. Thnk about that. If you are facing a life sentence, what is your freedom worth?

A statutory fee is a fee set by law. Some legal work requires the court to set or approve the fee.



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.



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.



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. 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.


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 ask your lawyer to estimate how much they will be.


 Lawyers Charge For the Time They Spend You will pay for the lawyer's time, so think before your contact your lawyer. How much is this worth to you?

  • 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.
  • Ask the lawyer how they will tell you about the progress of your case.
  • Keep your own file with copies of all letters and court documents.
  • Make notes of things you want to bring up at your next meeting.
  • Don’t phone the lawyer too often. Many people do this, which means they pay more than they need to. Before you phone, consider if it would be better to write a letter or email. Then you have a written record and your lawyer can deal with your questions properly. If you call, you may interrupt your lawyer who is concentrating on another case.
  • If you must phone, explain to the lawyer's secretary why you are calling. The secretary knows about your case and may be able to help, so you don’t have to speak to the lawyer.

Don’t count on a court ordering your opponent to pay all your costs.

A court may order your opponent to pay costs, but those costs are based on a schedule and may cover about 45% of your lawyer’s bill.

Supreme Court may award costs for fees and disbursements to the successful party. But Provincial Court awards litigation expenses only very rarely.

CanLaw is a far better lawyer referral service than any or all of the Law Society Referral Services. CanLaw

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