Choosing a Family Law Lawyer

*Please note that the information on this website is intended as a guide only. Each case is unique and context-specific. Legal advice should be sought in regards to your family issue. Provincial and territorial legislation on family law policy and legislation will differ from province to province. If you or anyone you know requires legal advice, an experienced family lawyer should be contacted. If you have any questions not covered on this website, send an email enquiry to info@nanda.ca and we’ll be sure to get back to you shortly.

How can I find a lawyer to act for me in a family law matter?

All lawyers are theoretically qualified to act for a client on a legal matter. However, it does not mean that every lawyer is equipped to handle a family law matter. You should ensure that the person you retain knows how to do the things you want done. You wouldn’t want to hire a home renovator for your house whose experience is primarily renovating businesses and schools.

To find out which lawyers in your community specialize in family law, the first place to start is to ask the people you know. There is old adage to the saying that word of mouth is the best form of marketing. This saying is true because the people you know are more likely to share the good and bad experiences they have had with a lawyer. You can also ask a lawyer you know and trust to recommend someone who is known as a good family law lawyer.

The Law Society of Upper Canada has a Lawyer Referral Service in which you can receive information on a lawyer in your area who practices family law. You can also check in with the Law Society in your province or territory for further assistance.

How much do lawyers charge?

Every lawyer on a private retainer is free to set his or her own fees. If the lawyer is acting on a legal aid certificate, or through an insurance plan, the fee is, largely, fixed. Before your lawyer starts any work for you, you should discuss the fee. You should never feel embarrassed to ask about the costs of a lawyer’s service; this will allow you to budget your expenses accordingly.

How are fees calculated?

Lawyers generally bill by the hour for the work they complete. Rates will vary depending on the area which you live in, how long the lawyer has been in practice (including the experience of the law in that particular field of law), and the billing practices of the lawyer. Lawyers’ fees typically range from $100 per hour to over $500 per hour. Generally, lawyers who are more experienced and knowledgeable may command higher fees. Although not always the case, a lawyer who has been in practice for a long time, may charge a higher rate than a lawyer who is not as experienced.

There are some lawyers who will quote a fixed fee. Sometimes a fixed fee is used to complete a specific job or it may be to represent you from the beginning to the end of the case. Be careful about this. If the lawyer offers you a quote and the case work is more than the fee requires, it is possible for the quote to change. The concern is if a lawyer will continue to represent you zealously if he or she realizes that the time spent on your behalf is coming out of his or her own pocket. If you decide to agree on a fixed fee, you should be aware of the risks that are involved.

At no point in time should you be afraid to ask your lawyer how they calculate their fees. A lawyer understands the position of any potential client, and he or she should be more than happy to discuss any concerns you have over their fees. A lawyer will generally be able to give you an estimate on what the fee schedule should look like. There is no clear answer on the fee schedule because the lawyer will not know whether the other party will be cooperative or not. There are actions you can take to keep some of your costs down, but the other party can sometimes drive the costs up, depending on the actions of the other party. In addition, the counsel for the other party may not be as experienced as your own lawyer, and this can sometimes drive the costs up. Every situation cannot be anticipated. A good rule of thumb is to assume that things rarely work out as smoothly as either party wants them to, no matter how hard one tries to cooperate. At times, something will end up complicating the case.

Can I shop around to find a lawyer?

You can, and you should. Finding a lawyer who is a good fit for you can sometimes take time. You may not necessarily find representation on your first meeting. It is a good idea to make an initial appointment with more than one lawyer so that you can determine which lawyer will work best to fulfill your needs. Cost is a major factor in choosing a lawyer, but making sure you are comfortable with your lawyer is equally as important.

You should consider how the lawyer acts towards you. You should also consider whether the lawyer is speaking to you in terms which you understand. Lastly, you should consider whether the lawyer is willing to be patient in answering all of your questions. These are some of the issues you should consider when seeking counsel. You should always be comfortable with the lawyer who is handling your case – after all, it is a family issue which requires patience and understanding.

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