Paying a Lawyer
- Lawyers charge a fee based on their experience, the work they they do for you and how long it takes.
- You should talk to your lawyer about what they will charge.
- If you think you have been overcharged you can have the bill reviewed by a court official.
Lawyers charge for their services. Different lawyers will have different rates. Fees may vary based on the lawyer’s experience. Fees will also vary based on your particular case and what is involved.
At your first meeting you should talk to your lawyer about:
- the types of fees to be charged
- an estimate of the total cost, if possible
- when and how you will be billed
- if there will be any additional costs
- whether you might be eligible for Legal Aid
When you come to an agreement, get it in writing to help avoid problems in the future. The agreement should clearly set out the work to be done and the fees that will be charged.
You can try to keep costs down by being organized whenever you contact your lawyer. This is important whether your contact is in person, by phone or email. Remember that you are paying for your lawyer's time. Contact your lawyer only when necessary. Ask your lawyer if there is anything else you can do to keep costs down.
Some lawyers will ask for a retainer. This is money you pay up-front before the lawyer does any work for you. The money you paid may then be used to pay the lawyer as work is done.
Sometimes a lawyer will charge a fixed amount for doing certain work. Other times a lawyer will charge by the hour. The amount they charge will vary from lawyer to lawyer. It may be based on the number of years of experience they have and the complexity of the matter.
There are times when a lawyer may agree to work on what is called a contingency basis. This means that the lawyer agrees to receive a certain percentage of an award as payment for the case. If the client isn’t awarded anything, the lawyer will not receive a fee. The percentage is agreed to ahead of time.
In addition to paying your lawyer’s fee - whether it is a fixed fee, a contingency fee or other fee arrangement - you will also have to pay for some costs. For example, clients must generally pay for any long distance phone calls that must be made, as well as the cost of filing or registering documents with the court.
If you do not agree with what a lawyer charges, you should go back to the lawyer and ask for an explanation. Lawyers keep close track of the time spent on each case and should be able to tell you the reason for the cost. If you are still not satisfied, you may want to have your bill “assessed.” This means asking a court official to go over the bill to see if the charges are reasonable. You have 30 days after you receive the bill to apply for an assessment. Under special circumstances the court may allow you more time. A general information package on assessment is available from the Law Society of Saskatchewan.