For the best results, two-way communication is critical in any lawyer-client relationship. We generally communicate in the method the client prefers, which is usually by email or phone, and sometimes text message if appropriate. Regular contact is essential to keep both the lawyer and the client updated on your legal matter.
We usually respond to client emails or phone calls within 1 or 2 business days. We also ask our clients respond to our emails or phones in a timely fashion to ensure smooth communication. We cannot best represent you if we do not know your wishes.
As the client, you will decide the general direction of your legal action. We are the lawyers who represent you, and our job is to provide you with the best legal advice and inform you of the different options available to you so you can make the best decision based upon the facts – not on conjecture.
We will usually make a recommendation, but the final decision will be yours and yours alone. We will then provide legal services to carry out your instructions to the best of our abilities.
However, you should be aware, we cannot accept instructions that conflict with our duties to the courts, the legal profession, or the public. The Code of Conduct of the Law Society of British Columbia sets out clear standards we, as lawyers, are to meet. If you have any questions about the Code of Conduct, please don’t hesitate to ask.
Certain communications between a lawyer and client are confidential. In Canada, this is known as “solicitor-client privilege.” Because of this privilege, you can give your lawyer all of the relevant facts without fear that prejudicial information will become public. However, you should be aware that not all solicitor-client communications are privileged. The privilege only applies when the client reveals information in confidence to obtain legal advice or services. Information that you give your lawyer that is not privileged – usually not pertained to your particular legal matter – is instead treated as confidential and, as such, may be disclosed in certain circumstances. The Law Society of British Columbia’s Code of Conduct outlines the limited circumstances in which confidential information may be disclosed.
To retain a lawyer essentially means to hire a lawyer to assist you with your legal matter. There are two parts to hiring a lawyer: a retainer letter and the payment of a retainer. Hiring a lawyer is a two-step process: first, we will provide you with a retainer letter which details the nature of the lawyer-client relationship; second, is the retainer fee which must be paid to engage us. A retainer is essentially a down payment on your legal services. It is held in trust by our firm, and as we perform legal services on your behalf, we withdraw our fees from the trust account. We provide a statement of account for those services. Once it has been depleted, we will ask for an additional retainer if more work is required to be performed on your behalf. If your matter is resolved and there are still retainer funds being held in trust for you, the remaining funds will be returned to you.
Our statements of accounts are broken into three categories: legal fees, disbursements and other charges. Legal fees are our charges for services rendered and are subject to tax. Typically, legal fees are charged on an hourly rate. In determining the chargeable time for a matter, we include telephone calls, emails, meetings, preparation time, sending, receiving and reviewing correspondence, drafting documents, travel time, reviewing documents and files, research, court appearances and all time spent in providing legal services to you. We will provide you with regular statements of account which will detail the services provided to you. Disbursements are payments we make to third parties for expenses incurred on your behalf. We incur these expenses as your lawyers. Some examples include expert witnesses, Land Titles Office fees, Corporate Registry fees and court filing fees. You will be responsible for paying our disbursements on your matter as well as GST, where applicable.
We maintain a separate bank account for money we hold in trust for our clients which is called a trust account. The Law Society of British Columbia has strict standards for lawyers’ trust accounts, and any breaches are treated seriously. Trust accounts are audited annually by a professional accounting firm, and the results of the audit are reported to the Law Society. The Law Society also conducts spot audits to ensure that your money is managed appropriately.