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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.
Start by requesting that CanLaw find you a lawyer.
We will refer your case to several lawyers in your area who handle your type of case.
Interested lawyers who are qualified for your matter will contact you . Most offer a free half hour consultation.
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 lawyers by phone or email first. Have a written list of questions and brief outline of your case handy
See if the initial contact looks like this is a lawyer you would like to consider. If not, thank them for their time and move on to the next lawyer on your list.
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. You will save money in the end.
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.
Changing lawyers is a last resort to be avoided at all costs.
If 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
So in picking a lawyer, eliminate the obvious non starters, sort through the rest using your common sense, gut feel and judgment.
If the lawyer seems after all this to be someone you can trust and work with, sign on the dotted line.
We also have established a Rate Your Lawyer department based on the premise that consumers of legal services have a right to satisfaction.
Just ask CanLaw. It is time that you find out who the lawyers are who are doing a good job.
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.
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.
Do not be shy about asking about costs. You will save money in the end.
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
Keep copies of all documents you give to the lawyer.
Insist on getting copies of all correspondence promptly, sent and received by your lawyer.
Never pay more then about 25% of the total estimate in advance. If the lawyer balks, find another lawyer.
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. The lawyer will have a standard letter of agreement. Do not sign it without reading every word carefully. If you do not understand something ask for an explanation.
Ask for changes to things you do not like.
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.
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