By Richard Aitken
There are a number of fine criminal lawyers in Durham Region. Like any product or service they all have their own way of billing clients. The trick is to meet with the lawyer as early as possible, to fully discuss the file and your goals, and have an honest discussion about the likely fees and file outcome. It is important that the lawyer and client are on the same page from the very start.
WHAT ARE THE MAIN DIFFERENCES IN HOW LEGAL FEES ARE CALCULATED?
Aitken Robertson uses the block or flat fee method. The advantage of such a system is that it is easy to calculate. Our lawyers give a fee quote, and that fee will not change. We tell the client what we will charge if we are able to get the drinking and driving charge dropped, reduced to careless driving so there is no criminal record, and as well if there is a trial lasting one day. We also quote for situations where the trial lasts longer than one day. Alternatively, some clients decide that pleading guilty makes more sense for their situation, and we also quote for that.
Other lawyers bill by the hour. The bill is generally calculated by counting up all of the lawyer’s hours, paralegal and other support staff’s hours, and multiplying by the relevant hourly billing rate. While it is also easy to calculate, there is some risk that for whatever reason more hours need to be spent on the file than the client anticipates. Sometimes bills are larger than expected.
Our office operates on the belief that we want our clients to know that we honour our promises and our fee quotes. Apart from having to add HST (not our choice!), and the occasional disbursement such as when court transcripts must be ordered or experts retained (we will always get your permission first) our fee does not change.
When interviewing a lawyer about fees ask such questions as ‘What is not included,’ and “What happens if the case takes longer than you thought it would take” and “If I go to trial and you file a Charter Application will that cost more?’
WHAT ELSE SHOULD I CONSIDER OTHER THAN FEES?
Just like you would not likely choose a heart surgeon on the basis of cost (if we did not have OHIP), it would be shortsighted to only consider this one factor. You may want to ponder:
- How much experience does the lawyer have with impaired driving cases? Does the fee make sense in relation to the experience?
- Impaired driving law fundamentally changed in late 2018. Has the lawyer taken any special courses or training to stay current?
- Check the lawyer’s online reputation. Compare their Google and other reviews to other DUI lawyers.
- Perhaps most importantly, after meeting or speaking with the lawyer, are you left with a sense of confidence?
Most clients opt for our modest retainer and monthly payment plans. Typically our clients take 6 to 12 months to pay their bills. When you interview lawyers ask if they offer payment plans, what the initial retainer is, and if interest is charged on the payment plans.
We have totally revised our DUI book called 17 Secrets to Helping You Survive (and WIN) Your DUI Charge. It incorporates the new DUI laws, and offers practical advice on how to choose and pay for a lawyer. We wrote it ourselves. Most clients get something out of it. If you want a book, please contact us and we will send you a PDF copy. If you want a physical book let us know that and we will send one to you. The book outlines such chapters as: How Much Will That Lawyer Cost Me?, Can I Be Fired for a DUI?, Drugged Driving and many more.
Our Oshawa office is located just three blocks away from the Oshawa courthouse. If you would like to speak to any of our Oshawa lawyers, Richard Aitken, Phil Stiles or Nasif Abdullah, please give us a call or email us. We would welcome the chance to assist you.