You are paying a lawyer for a professional service that includes their expertise, the support services required by a law office, adhering to professional standards required of all lawyers and professional liability insurance.

While an estimate of your fee may be given, it is difficult for a lawyer to guarantee a fee due to the fact that many aspects of law are beyond his or her control. For instance, what is anticipated as being a single court application may end up involving multiple applications, initiated by an opposing party. On other occasions, what may be contemplated as an extremely difficult matter, may be resolved easily and, accordingly, the account may be less than anticipated.

At the first interview, your lawyer may request a retainer. The retainer is held in trust and is applied against services performed for you by NSWB. If all of the retainer is not needed to pay your account, then the balance is returned. 

Because of the difficulties in providing a fee estimate, you will often be sent a progress billing on a monthly, quarterly, or semi-annual basis. Accounts are sent to you to keep you informed as to the amount of your legal fees. Depending on the activity of a file, a lawyer may automatically provide a monthly billing to you. All accounts are charged interest at 18% per annum, if not paid within 30 days.

Your final account is based upon many factors. The most relevant factor in most, but not all, accounts is the time spent on a matter. Legal services performed for a client by the law firm are charged at standard hourly rates, given to you at the first interview with your solicitor. Hourly rates are charged for both lawyers and legal assistants working on the file and are adjusted annually. There are many services such as gathering information and preparing documents that our legal assistants are well qualified to perform. NSWB employs legal assistants, whenever possible, to minimize your costs.

All expenses incurred are billed to the client as disbursements and are charged in addition to the fee. Furthermore, all fees and disbursements are subject to GST and PST.

In addition to the time spent, other factors taken into consideration when calculating legal fees include:

  1. The time normally expended for similar services.
  2. The fee normally charged for similar services.
  3. The amount involved and the results obtained.
  4. Time limitations.
  5. The experience, ability and skill of the lawyer.
  6. The importance of the matter to the client.

Be organized whenever you contact your lawyer, both in person and on the phone. Remember that you are paying for your lawyer’s time. Phone your lawyer only when necessary. You may want to consider writing to your lawyer instead of phoning. Tell your lawyer everything from the beginning, even if you think it makes you look bad. Lawyers work best for you when they have all the information both good and bad. Ask your lawyer if there is anything you can do to keep costs down. 

If you have a question with an account, do not hesitate to ask your lawyer for an explanation. Your question may relate to a misunderstanding, either caused by the lawyer in the fashion in which your account was prepared, or your uncertainty as to the meaning of certain aspects of your account, or the lawyer may have made an error in billing the account. Your lawyer will be more than willing to meet with you to review and discuss your account.

By law, a lawyer’s fees must be fair and reasonable. If you are not satisfied after your discussion with your lawyer, the Court Registrar may review your account. The review is called “taxation” and must be brought to the Registrar’s attention within 30 days of your receiving your lawyer’s bill. Contact the Law Society of Saskatchewan for a general information package on taxation.