Are Your Family Law Fees Too High?
Many lawyers rely on the fact that you’ve committed to an hourly rate. While this is fair in theory, it does leave room for you to be potentially exploited or unfairly charged by your lawyer.
Despite law firms and lawyers charging an hourly rate for their services related to their experience, skills, and services provided, they do still need to charge you fairly for the work they do and provide evidence of how these fees are being used.
Lawyers are expected to provide information about the services they’ve provided in regard to the fees they’ve charged from clients in order to ensure that people are treated properly and that they are given a representation that is at a fair and reasonable cost for the services provided.
If you think you may have been overcharged, there is help! Legal Bills Ontario provides assessment services to both individuals and companies that believe they may have been overcharged by the legal council in family law, civil litigation, and criminal law cases. If you think that’s you, we can help!
The Law of Costs for Family Law
When it comes to the law, it’s meant to be fair and ensure that people have access to representation. To uphold the integrity of officials and the legal system, the law of costs is the premise that costs surrounding legal representation should be monitored and controlled. In our system, this is done largely through fixed pricing.
Fixed costs for legal services helps make sure that people have access to representation that is fair and reasonable, which also helps to make sure the system is void of corruption and functions properly and with integrity.
Part of this law stipulates that costs must be fair and reasonable, as opposed to a measure of the costs to the litigant. Even if the litigant states that you are responsible for paying a certain amount based on the costs to the litigant, this still may not be fair and reasonable for you to pay.
If you feel like this could pertain to you, you may stand to benefit from an assessment of your legal fees by professional lawyers.
When You Can Request an Assessment
As a client, there are two main ways in which you can request an assessment of legal costs you are expected to pay a solicitor under the Solicitors Act. Section 3 of the Solicitors Act stipulates that a client is able to request the delivery and assessment of the solicitor’s bill or for the assessment of a bill that was delivered within the last month.
It is important that you seek consultation and legal support from an assessment officer within these limitation periods so that you have the best chances of succeeding with your claim.
Section 4 of the Solicitors Act states that there can be special circumstances that allow claims to be made outside of these limitations, as long as a court or judge approves of them. If you believe that there may be special circumstances surrounding your legal fees, you may be able to get compensation.
A professional, legal team is the best resource to help you navigate this situation and fully understand your potential claim.
Family Law Contingency Fees
While for most cases, the Solicitors Act does address contingency fees between solicitors and clients, there are stipulations depending on the reasons for the solicitor being retained.
If the solicitor is retained for a family law matter or a proceeding under the Canadian Criminal Code (or any other criminal or semi-criminal proceedings), the solicitor is not allowed to enter a contingency fee agreement under section 28.1(3) of the Solicitors Act.
This means that any agreement in a family law case that involves a payment of a percentage of the property recovered in an action or proceeding that could be interpreted as a contingency fee will not be allowed by an assessment officer. If you have been charged a fee that could be interpreted as a contingency fee in any way, you may have been overcharged and could benefit from an assessment.
Evidence is the Solicitor’s Responsibility
Once an assessment has begun under the Solicitors Act, the procedure takes the form of a trial. The evidence is brought forth and is under oath. Lawyers involved in the services provided are required to attend the proceedings and must provide evidence of the work they performed.
The client will not be responsible for testifying or providing evidence. Instead, responsibility lies on the lawyer to justify the expenses charged and the services provided, ensuring that their accounts were both fair and reasonable.
Factors Influencing the Assessment
This determination is reliant on a number of different factors which determine whether solicitors charged appropriately based on services provided. It is up to the assessment officer to determine whether the fees were fair and reasonable based on the evidence. To help make this distinction, the Ontario Court of Appeals has outlined things to consider when assessing these claims.
Free Review and Consultation for Your Family Law Fees
If you think that any of this may pertain to you and you may have been overcharged on your legal fees by a solicitor, you should seek professional advice. Our team at Legal Bills Ontario specializes in cases where individuals have been overcharged on their legal fees.
We will help review and assess your fees and make sure that they are fair and reasonable, as well as help you seek compensation in the event that the fees weren’t justified.
Our team will offer a free review of your legal bills by a senior civil litigation lawyer, who will be able to assess what you were charged, the services you received, and determine how fair and reasonable these charges were. From here, we’ll be able to tell you how we can help you with your family law fees so we can proceed with your case.