WOITAS MCLEOD & ASSOCIATES
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Get Answers to Frequently Asked Questions.
To the client:
Lawyers are trained professionals who can help you achieve your goals and solve your legal problems. Contrary to what you see on television, they are well educated, hard-working and caring. The one thing they are not is mind readers or magicians! The Canadian legal system is evidence based and often the client is the source of that evidence. The professional relationship requires both persons to work effectively together. Lawyers depend on you to let them know whole story, obtain documents and how satisfied you are with their services.
Stay in contact with your lawyer to provide the information he or she needs and to let them know how you’re doing. And remember that your lawyer is always looking out for your best interests.
Do I need a lawyer's help?
A lawyer has specialized skills and expertise to help you get something done or solve a problem that involves the law. Lawyers are trained to understand the law and to work within the legal system to assist their clients.
People count on a lawyer’s assistance when they prepare a will, buy or sell a house, separate from a spouse, start a company, have a claim against someone for damages, need to defend themselves against criminal charges, or want to right a wrong. Those are just some of the many reasons you may be asking a lawyer for advice.
What is special about the relationship between lawyers and clients?
Privacy is a special feature of the working relationship between lawyers and clients. Our legal system is built on the very important principle of solicitor-client privilege.
What you say to your lawyer is confidential and cannot be repeated without your permission. Why? Because a lawyer cannot properly represent you and defend your interests without knowing the truth. Be honest with your lawyer. Dealing with the unexpected can be costly.
What rights do I have as a client?
Clients have a right to expect prompt, courteous service from their lawyers and law firm staff. Clients also have a right to have their lawyer explain the law and their options to them in language that they can understand. Lawyers do not make decisions for clients. Lawyers provide the legal information clients need to make decisions for themselves.
Ask questions if you don’t understand something your lawyer says. This is not a time to be shy or afraid of sounding uninformed. You need to understand the information and advice your lawyer gives you, so that you can make decisions and instruct your lawyer on what you want to do.
What responsibilities do I have as a client?
Lawyers need their clients to tell them the facts and details that are relevant to the case. Come prepared for your first meeting with your lawyer. Bring the papers, bills, receipts and any other information that you think might be important.
Lawyers also need their clients to be clear about what they want. Sometimes you will need to know more about the law and to get legal advice before you can decide exactly what you want to do. The important thing is to make sure you discuss your goals with your lawyer. Be clear about what you expect your lawyer to do for you.
How do I find a lawyer who is right for me?
The first step in finding a lawyer is to think about why you need a lawyer’s services. Defining the problem will help you to know what kind of experience and skills you want your lawyer to have.
Once a lawyer takes your case, he or she cannot work for someone else whose interests in the case conflict with yours.
Make sure your lawyer is right for you. You need to be able to communicate easily with your lawyer, to feel comfortable asking questions and to feel confident that you can work together to accomplish your goals.
What happens after I have chosen a lawyer?
You need to explain why you want the lawyer’s help and what you hope to achieve.
When you are asking a lawyer to write a will for you or to handle the sale or purchase of a home, for example, the process is generally straightforward. Your lawyer will be able to describe what to expect, what needs to be done, and where delays or other problems might occur.
When you are seeking legal help to solve a problem or to settle a dispute, your lawyer might need to do more research on the laws that apply and find out about recent court decisions in situations similar to yours.
A lawyer cannot guarantee to you what will happen in court or in negotiations with other parties. A lot of factors can affect how long your case will take and its outcome. You need to talk to your lawyer so that you have realistic expectations about the timing and possible results of any legal action you decide to take.
A lawsuit is not the only, or often the best, way to settle a dispute. Negotiation, mediation and arbitration are other ways of coming to a settlement. You and your lawyer can discuss what alternative dispute resolution methods might be appropriate.
Remember, your lawyer acts on your instructions. Once you know more about the law that applies and your options, you will have to decide what you want to do and tell your lawyer.
Make a list of questions you have or information you want to give your lawyer before you call or meet.
How much does using a lawyer's services cost?
The cost of handling your legal issue or problem is something to discuss with your lawyer at your first meeting.
The fee your lawyer charges depends on several factors, including:
- The lawyer’s skills, expertise and experience;
- The difficulty, complexity and distinctiveness of the case; and
- The area of law involved.
Lawyers generally charge for their services in one of these ways:
- Fixed fees: A fixed fee is a set amount for a specific task, such as writing a will or power of attorney, settling an uncontested divorce, or handling a straightforward real estate transaction. Lawyers are most likely to agree to a fixed fee when they know exactly what work needs to be done in advance.
- Hourly rate: In more complex and unpredictable cases, lawyers are likely to charge fees based on an hourly rate.
- Percentage fee: The lawyer’s fee is a set percentage of the value of the property involved. For example, a lawyer would charge a percentage of the value of the estate when settling the estate and handling related matters after someone has died.
- Results-based fee: The lawyer’s fee is set at the beginning, depending on the results of the case. If the case is settled the way you wanted within the specified time frame, the lawyer receives a fee you both agreed to. If there is a different outcome, the lawyer receives a different fee, a reduced fee or no fee.
Discuss money with your lawyer. You need to have a clear idea of how much your lawyer’s services will cost and what factors will affect the total cost. Ask what you can do to keep fees and other costs down.
What can I do if I am not satisfied with a lawyer's service?
You have a responsibility to tell your lawyer if you are unhappy with any services. Don’t wait until the end of the case to voice your concerns. The sooner you tell your lawyer what is bothering you, the sooner your concerns can be resolved.
Talk to your lawyer when you have a problem with the service you are receiving or a concern about your case. Problems cannot be solved if you keep them to yourself. If something is bothering or upsetting you, tell your lawyer.
What is the key to a successful lawyer-client relationship?
Communication is the key to a successful lawyer-client relationship.
Be realistic about what a lawyer can do for you. Lawyers have legal knowledge and expertise that can help you with legal problems. They cannot move mountains, magically return your life to what it was like before the accident, or make the spouse you are divorcing a different person.