Ontario lawyers advertising their fees: what does the Law Society say about it?

Michael CarabashSo this blog is all about Ontario lawyers’ advertising their fees. Take the following example: a lawyer states, quite unequivocally, that they will charge $500 for a basic will and that this amount does not include disbursements (e.g. photocopying, faxing, printing, long-distance phone calls, etc.) or GST (at 5%). What could be wrong with doing so? Well, the Law Society of Upper Canada, which governs Ontario lawyers, provides the following in the Rules of Professional Conduct concerning advertising fees:

3.02 (3) A lawyer may advertise fees charged by the lawyer for legal services if

(a) the advertising is reasonably precise as to the services offered for each fee quoted,

(b) the advertising states whether other amounts, such as disbursements and taxes will be charged in addition to the fee, and

(c) the lawyer adheres to the advertised fee.

OK, so lets get down to the nitty gritty, shall we? Basically, the LSUC is saying that lawyers can’t engage in misleading or otherwise untrue advertising about the services. So you’re getting a will for $500, not a power of attorney over property or healthy care or a living will, etc. Next, the $500 doesn’t include GST or disbursements (as previously aforementioned), so we’re still OK. Finally, the lawyer must abide by the advertised price. This means that if a lawyer advertises (e.g. online) one day and then changes the price internally but forgets to update the website, then they’ll be stuck with the price on the website if someone relied on that price to hook up with the lawyer for the particular services.

I’ll be looking into the disciplinary hearings at the Law Society of Upper Canada to see how, if at all, these provision have been enforced in real life situations…I’ll keep you posted…

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