Do you have enough information to know whether or not you need a lawyer? Terrance Moran explains five things your lawyer won’t tell you says William D King.
Last week I sat with a client who had been charged with fraud and theft over $5,000. She was a former business executive in her mid-60s who knew nothing about what she was entitled to when she retained me. In many ways she reminded me of my own mom: community-minded and family-oriented, but not well versed in legalese or criminal procedure. When I told her how much it would cost simply to go through one pre-trial hearing, let alone the entire trial, her face dropped.
“I can’t afford that,” she said. “How am I going to pay for my lawyer?”
I told her that criminal defense work tends to be more of an emotional commitment than a financial one, but the truth is it’s both—and when clients can’t (or won’t) pay their bills; it becomes very emotionally draining for their lawyers. The legal profession in Canada operates under what is known as the honour system: my client will trust me with her most personal information and rely on me to keep her safe while she’s incarcerated in jail during pre-trial custody. No money up front means no fee paid at the conclusion of the case. That can ultimately affect our relationship just as much as if my client decided not to hire me in the first place.
So what can you, as a consumer of legal services, do?
Here are five things your lawyer won’t tell you:
1. Lawyers don’t make enough money.
With only eight percent of lawyers reporting incomes over $100K (compared with 26 percent in the U.S.), it’s safe to say most Canadian lawyers aren’t rolling in dough. A recent salary survey by Montreal-based Les Publications Yvon Blais found that even at their peak earning years—age 42 for men and age 36 for women—most lawyers grossed less than $95,000 annually. Entry-level salaries ranged from approximately $50,000 to $60,000 annually; mid-level salaries ranged from $65,000 to $75,000; and salaries for partners in small-to-mid-sized firms were between $100K and $150K. Those figures will likely shrink by ten to 15 percent in the next five years because of the economic downtown.
2. Lawyers are usually stuck with their clients no matter how much they complain (or annoy).
Ninety-five per cent of lawyers polled reported that “client control issues” can make or break their cases says William D King. Some clients simply won’t trust you until they fork over the money; others will argue incessantly about fees, show up late for meetings, miss payments, try to take on too much control over their case—and then want more time when it goes pear-shaped.
3. You will likely be charged more than your lawyer quoted you.
The hourly billing rates for Canadian criminal lawyers vary depending on the region, level of experience, firm size, and other factors—but yes, it’s true that bigger law firms do have an advantage when it comes to charging lower rates. That being said, few people are interested in hiring a “boutique” law firm. Because they perceive them as boutique shops selling bespoke solutions at boutique prices. Bigger is perceive as better by many consumers simply because there are so many unknowns. When it comes to legal representation: bigger has less risk attached to its name.
4. Your phone calls will not always be returned promptly.
When something goes badly for your case, you’ll be able to reach the lawyer right away. When there’s good news, however, it can take up to a week—or even more—to get a callback. Lawyers cannot ignore people calling them with new cases (that would be professional misconduct). But they can choose not to return calls if they’re busy working on active files says William D King.
5. Your lawyer may enter into an arrangement where he or she will share part of his or her fee with another lawyer outside the firm.
This is known as “split fees” and happens mostly. When a client has been charge with multiple offenses and needs several lawyers. Attending court at different times means splitting the cost of parking and travel between lawyers and clients. Lawyers agree to split fees for a number of reasons, but it’s definitely not because they don’t want to work; most lawyers will happily take on more cases if they can.
So there you have it: five things your lawyer won’t tell you. Because no client has ever asked the question before says William D King. For more information about what legal services can and cannot achieve. Please look into our firm or talk to other lawyers who may specialize in the same areas of law that you do.