Terms of Retainer For Legal Services
We will endeavour to handle your legal matter in a prompt, efficient manner. Please let us know if there is any way we can improve on the service we provide to you.
As the client, you will decide the general direction your matter will follow (e.g., do we negotiate or go to court? accept a settlement offer? incorporate or form a partnership?). Before taking any major step in your matter, we will ask for your instructions on how you want to proceed. We will usually make a recommendation but the final decision will be yours. We will then proceed with the legal services necessary to carry out your instructions.
We cannot accept instructions that would conflict with our duties to the court, to other lawyers and to the public, as set out in the Code of Ethics published by the Law Society.
We can make no promises or guarantees as to the outcome of your matter; we will, however, give you our considered opinion and provide you with competent legal services.
If you have retained us to take court action to recover damages, you should be aware that winning your case in court does not necessarily mean that you will actually recover the money the court awards. If the defendant who is found liable for the damages is not insured, further proceedings may be needed to recover the damages, and in some cases no recovery is possible, even after the case has been won in court.
Two-way communication will be very important in our relationship. If you ever feel you do not fully understand what is going on, please call or make an appointment for a meeting. If you have any information that you feel might be of assistance to me in handling your matter, please let us know.
We will report to you the progress of your matter from time to time by e-mail, telephone call or letter. You will also receive copies of most correspondence we send and receive, and copies of documents we prepare or receive, usually by e-mail. If you do not understand a document or correspondence you receive from us, or if you don’t understand why your matter is taking so long, please contact us.
Certain communications between solicitor and client are confidential. This confidentiality is known as the “solicitor-client privilege.” Because of it, you can give us all the facts relevant to your matter without fear that prejudicial information will be made public. We cannot be compelled by the tax department, the police, the government or the courts to divulge information that is subject to solicitor-client privilege.
The solicitor/client privilege is your privilege, not ours, so only you can waive it.
Not all solicitor/client communications are privileged. The privilege only arises when the client reveals information in confidence to obtain legal advice or services. Information you give us that is not privileged is treated as confidential. Our ethical rules define the limited circumstances in which confidential information can be disclosed.
The office that we practice in is shared by several other lawyers who run their practices entirely separate from ours. None of us are partners of each other, though we share such things as office equipment and telephone lines, and we make arrangements with each other to advise and assist each other on an “as needed” basis. All persons in our office are aware of the confidential nature of all client matters.
If you have any question about confidentiality, please don’t hesitate to ask.
We maintain a bank account for money we hold in trust for our clients. The account is specially designated as a “trust account.”
The Law Society has established very strict standards for lawyers’ trust accounts. Trust accounts are audited annually by a professional accountant and the results of the audit are reported to the Law Society. The Law Society also conducts spot audits.
The interest on mixed trust accounts (trust accounts where the funds of more than one client are mixed) goes to the Law Foundation of Alberta and is used for law reform and public legal education.
Fees are charged for a lawyer’s time and effort expended on behalf of a client. Legal fees are subject to GST, which will be added on to your account. The fees on your matter will be calculated in one of the following ways:
- Hourly Rate Fees are usually based on the time spent on a matter. In determining the chargeable time for a matter, we include telephone calls, meetings, preparation time, sending correspondence, receiving and reviewing correspondence, drafting documents, travel time, reviewing documents and files, research, court appearances and generally all time spent in providing legal services to you in the matter. Records of time and services rendered are kept, except in “flat-fee” or “contingency” matters, and will usually be included in the accounts sent to you. Our normal hourly rates at the present time are $300.00 per hour.
- Flat-Rate Charge: The charges for some services may be quoted on a flat-rate basis. Such services normally include wills, uncontested divorces, real estate transactions, incorporating and organizing a company, and acting as registered office and preparing the annual minutes of a company. A flat-rate quote is based on the assumption that the matter will be completed as anticipated at the time the quote was given, and is subject to increase if the matter turns out to be substantially more complex and time-consuming than was originally anticipated.
- Estates: Our charges for acting as solicitor for an estate will be quoted in a fee agreement that will be governed by the Surrogate Court Rules.
- Contingency Fees: In some matters, usually only personal injury claims, we will agree that our fees will be a certain percentage of the amount, if any, recovered. If we have agreed to such an arrangement we will provide you with a Contingency Fee Agreement for your signature.
Disbursements are expenses we incur to carry your matter forward. We will be billing to you the costs we incur to third parties, such as Land Titles Office fees, Corporate Registry fees, transcripts, court filing fees, process service fees, surveys, search fees, postage, long distance telephone charges and courier charges. We will also charge to you some of our office expenses directly attributable to your matter, such as photocopying at $0.25 per copy and the use of our Courthouse and Land Titles Office agent at the rate of $6.00 per document filed.
We will usually require a client to pay some money before taking on a case to cover the fees and disbursements for the initial block of work to be done. This money is kept in our trust account, may be used for certain disbursements as they are incurred, and is applied to payment of our account when an account is rendered. We may ask for an additional amount by way of further retainer from time to time.
Legal matters often take considerable time to resolve. To keep you informed as to how much the matter is costing you and to assist in covering our own overhead, you will likely receive interim accounts as your matter proceeds. When your matter in completed, you will receive a final account.
All accounts, including interim accounts, are due when rendered. If an account is not paid within 30 days, interest will be charged on the outstanding balance at the rate of 12% per annum until the account is paid in full.
If you decide to end our relationship, we will render a final account covering time and disbursements not previously billed. You would ordinarily have to pay this account and all other outstanding accounts before we would release the file.
We may end the relationship if you fail to follow our advice in circumstances where we consider it essential to our relationship for you to do so, if you fail to pay your accounts or provide such additional retainer as may be requested, or if we find ourselves in a conflict of interest.
We sincerely hope that neither of us will find it necessary to end our relationship. We look forward to working with you.