As a follow up to my presentation last week to the Retirement Planners Association of Canada, I’m blogging here about what you can do to find the right lawyer. The word “right” generally means three things: competent, responsive, and affordable.
There are many avenues for average Torontonians to find not only a lawyer, but the right lawyer for their particular case. Unfortunately, most of these avenues are inconvenient and sometimes very costly (e.g. an initial meeting with a lawyer could run you a few hundred bucks!).
More often than not, people find a lawyer through word of mouth referrals from family, friends, colleagues, or other professionals they do know (e.g. bankers, accountants, consultants, real estate agents, insurance agents, paralegals, other lawyers they know, etc.). This, in fact, is how most lawyers find their clients.
Alternatively, people may turn to the Yellow Pages and simply pick an advertisement and make a phone call. I’ve been told that people tend to pick the biggest advertisement because they somehow believe that the bigger the ad, the more successful the lawyer or law firm.
They may even turn to the Law Society of Upper Canada’s Lawyer Referral Service, which charges users $6 for a 30-minute conversation with one lawyer.
The point here is that finding the right lawyer for you is an important undertaking. You don’t want to have the lawyer who drafted your will or acted on your house deal to represent you in a criminal case: they may not be up-to-date on court room procedure or have experience cross-examining adverse parties.
Torontonians generally only need a lawyer for a limited time and have a limited budget for such engagements. Yet it is hard for these people to distinguish lawyers and law firms from each other, especially given that many small and medium law firms have a general practice. It may also be intimidating for them to approach lawyers with their legal issues, given that doing so may cost money (e.g. $500 for the initial hour visit) and ultimately retaining a lawyer could be very expensive given the uncertainty of hourly billings.
These factors make ordinary Torontonians shy away from seeking or hiring lawyers. Those sophisticated Torontonians who surf the Web looking for a lawyer are hungry for more information than what is provided in the YellowPages or a newspaper advertisement. They are doing a Google or Yahoo search to seek out a particular type of attorney in a particular field in a particular area. They are also looking for testimonials and looking for the experience of a lawyer.
All in all, it makes perfect sense for users facing these challenges to turn to Dynamic Legal Forms as a way of finding the right lawyer for the right price. Making a post is free and anonymous, posts remain on the website for up to 45 days, and users have the opportunity to receive information and multiple quotes from local lawyers specializing in the area of law requested. Comparing answers and then following up with the lawyer of your choice is just plain smart – particularly in a field where it is hard to compare one service provider from the next. All in all, a very good deal…
So now that you have found the right avenue to find a lawyer in a convenient and cost-effective manner: what next? Well, let’s talk about legal fees. Many lawyers will charge you a fixed fee for the first consultation. At this meeting, they’ll ask you questions about yourself and your situation. The lawyer is trying to understand the legal issues so that he can offer you some type of recommendation on how to proceed. If the meeting goes well, you may end up signing the lawyer’s retainer agreement, which stipulates the services that are going to be offered and the fees that are going to be charged. The fees are typically hourly fees ranging from $200 to upwards of $1000 / hour, depending on the size of the law firm, where it’s located (and it’s physical appearance and amenities), and the particular lawyer’s expertise and reputation.
At the first meeting with the lawyer, you should ask some basic questions related to:
- What services will the lawyer specifically provide;
- Billing, costs and budget;
- Time line;
- Communication (e.g. by phone, e-mail, etc. and how regularly);
- Past Experience in a particular field (they should have past cases they’ve done or some synopsis of transactions they’ve facilitated);
- Style (e.g. aggressive trial lawyer or alternative dispute resolution lawyer); and
- Terminating the retainer (e.g. failure to pay, failure to act, breakdown in the relationship, loss of confidence, etc.).