We strongly recommend that you shop carefully before you hire a lawyer. Lawyers are not cheap. An average rate runs around $350 an hour. A family law case can easily run into tens of thousands of dollars.
You shop for a house, or a car so shop for a lawyer. You are about to spend a very large amount of money
Check out at least half a dozen and interview three or four before making a choice. Remember, you are about to hire someone who could change your life forever. Take your time.
Contact them by email or fax with a written list of questions and briefly outlining your case.
In most cases, you can email the lawyers by clicking on their listings as you browse. It would be even easier if you create your email first. Then you could just cut and paste it into the email right there as you browse. (Remember that your email and fax are not secure, so do not write anything damaging.)
Make a Short List of Two or Three Lawyers
Now, make appointments and go to see each of the lawyers personally. Interview them as if you were hiring them to work for your company.
Ask them for relevant references.
Make the calls and check the references out. See if they were happy with the work, the lawyers, the results and the bill.
Ask if they would use that lawyer again.
Meeting With Prospective Lawyers
Bring all available documentation and make notes about your problem before meeting with your prospective lawyer for the first time.
It will allow you to present your problem in the clearest and most organized manner possible. You can then evaluate the lawyer's response to your case and questions.
Once a lawyer knows
what your case is about, consider:
whether you'll be comfortable working closely with the firm,
whether you believe the lawyer has the experience and skill to handle your case,
whether you understand his/her explanation of what the case involves, and
whether the fee arrangements seem reasonable.
Ask Yourself If You Can Work
With The Lawyer?
Get a feel for the chemistry between you. You are going to be working together on a matter that is probably vital to you. Possibly for years to come.
If you do not like each other, you are going to have problems down the road.
Now You Have to Choose.
So in picking a lawyer, eliminate the obvious non starters, sort through the rest using your common sense, gut feel and judgement. If the lawyer seems after all this to be someone you can trust and work with, sign on the dotted line.
Paying a lawyer. When you do, never pay more then about 25% of the total estimate in advance. Work out a payment plan based on the progress of the file. If you keep control of the money, you have leverage. Litigation almost always is a long slow dreadful process and a lawyer needs an incentive to push the case forward. If he cannot get paid until your case reaches the next stage, s/he will be motivated to work harder.
Now finally, when you are both agreed, draw up a letter of agreement. This letter need not be a fancy contract. Just outline the work and results you expect, the price and the payment terms and a timetable. This is something you can do yourself, or if your new lawyer does it, make sure s/he doe not charge you for it.
WARNING: Keep copies of all your documents you give to the lawyer. Insist on getting copies of all correspondence promptly, sent and received by your lawyer. If there is a bill dispute, a lawyer can keep all documents until you pay the bill in full, whether it is fair or not. This is called a Solicitor's Lien and is automatically created when you retain any lawyer anywhere in Canada. BEWARE of this trap
Ask Each Lawyer These Questions:
How long have you been in practice?
Do you have a specialist designation?
How many cases like this have you had?
Do you go to trial or are most cases settled out of court?
How many have you won?
How much would this case cost me?
What payment plans will you accept?
Who will actually do the work on this file?
How long will this type of case take to see to a settlement or the end?
These are loaded questions, but any lawyer can provide answers to every one of them without difficulty. The answers will help you weed out some lawyers. Lawyers will also appreciate this since it saves both you and them from wasted time and effort.
Changing lawyers is a last resort
to be avoided at all costs.
"Never change horses in mid stream"
f you are on Legal Aid, you MUST get their permission before changing lawyers and they may use this as an excuse to cancel your Legal Aid Certificate.
The best way to avoid these problems is to choose the right lawyer in the first place