Canadian Lawyer

June 2021

The most widely read magazine for Canadian lawyers

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Page 19 of 35

18 SPECIAL REPORT LEGAL FEES fees stayed the same, at 53 per cent. A slightly smaller rate, 43.7 versus 45 per cent in last year's survey, said they'd keep fees the same. However, there is one key difference in this year's survey — more than three per cent of respondents had lowered or will lower fees. That compares with 1.2 per cent with last year and zero in the 2019 survey. "Our notional hourly rations have increased marginally," says personal injury lawyer Ray Wagner of Wagners Injury Law Firm in Halifax. On the contingency side of his practice, a big part of his business, Wagner says those fees will stay the same. "We have no intention to lower or to raise rates," he says, "despite personal injury law being a very competitive market these days." (As a side note, Wagner points to how competitive the market is for cases such as car crashes because there are fewer of them thanks to travel restrictions.) While clients are, in general, becoming more sophisticated and understand how lawyers' fees work, there are also a lot of clients who never thought they would have to see a lawyer at this point in their lives. So, they need more guidance through the fee process. "For many of my clients, it's their first time meeting with a lawyer," says Jennifer Gold, who practises family law, as well as wills and estates law, in the Greater Toronto Area. "Every meeting with a client, there is an education portion about what is involved in retaining a lawyer and how our fees work. It is very clearly laid out in our retainer agree- ment in easy-to-understand language." Gold notes that many of her clients come in with legal aid certificates, and others generally don't have high incomes. As well, a lot of people who might have thought about going the "do-it-yourself " route now realize they might need a lawyer to maneuver a much-changed court system. "There are a multitude of practice direc- tions from various courts as to how to file documents, how to get a hearing sched- uled," says Ron Shulman, a family lawyer in Toronto, regarding all the COVID restric- tions. "This obviously makes it very difficult for anyone who's unrepresented to navigate through these ever-changing rules. "Understandably, the courts are adjusting to how to work remotely and keeping everyone safe. But it does create complexity overall." In some areas such as family law, hourly billing is generally the best way to go, say Gold and Shulman. Part of the reason for using the hourly billing model is that it is difficult to determine at the outset what will be needed to see a divorce or custody case "Every meeting with a client, there is an education portion about what is involved in retaining a lawyer and how our fees work." Jennifer Gold, Wood Gold LLP

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