All about retaining a lawyer and legal fees
Kenneth W. Golish, Criminal Defence

All about retaining a lawyer and legal fees

Please note the disclaimer that nothing in this site constitutes legal advice.  If you would like to have a consultation, please contact me.

    How do I retain you as my lawyer? 

    It will be the case for any lawyer you hire, that the lawyer must agree to take the case and the client agrees to have the lawyer represent them in court.  You will need to pay all the money upfront, or enter into a interim payment arrangement that both parties accept, or have legal aid in place.  The lawyer may agree to speak to your case in court as an 'agent' only for the time being and you may not have to appear.  If you end up not providing the requested retainer funds or not getting legal aid, the court will require you to appear and set the matter for trial on your own.  You may get a trial fixed and will be expected to be ready to proceed with or without counsel.   That will still give you time to finalize the retainer.

    Who pays for the lawyer I hire in a criminal case.  What if I win, why should I have to pay? 

    Fees are the responsibility of the defendant, not the government, even when you are ultimately acquitted.  In rare cases, however, where there has been some abuse of process, you might be able to recover damages from the responsible government agency or private individual.  If you can't afford a lawyer however you might qualify for assistance.  Read more hear.

    Can I get a free consultation? 

    Yes, most criminal lawyers will give you a free consultation, usually 30 minutes or less.  This could be simply over the telephone at an in-person meeting.  Typically in these circumstances, without a detailed review of the case, such a consultation is more for the purposes of giving you an idea of the fees you are looking at, rather than a final opinion on how you should proceed.

    Do I have to pay the money upfront in order to retain a criminal lawyer?  How am I suppose to pay for a lawyer if I can't afford one ?

    Yes, many will expect you to pay their estimated fee upfront.  Otherwise you might be able to make arrangements for a payment plan. 

    If you absolutely can't afford a lawyer, and the lawyer is prepared to accept a certificate under the Ontario Legal Aid Plan, you might qualify depending on the case.

    In some circumstances, you may not qualify for legal aid even when unable to pay a lawyer.  This might be the case simply because there is no risk of detention.  In some cases, the legal aid may refuse you coverage where they feel you have your own resources to pay for a lawyer or where they expect members of your family should be helping you out.  A court appointment for some limited purpose may still be available.  Typically you would work with the lawyer you want to process an application for such a court appointment.

    If I file a dispute, what will the assessment officer consider in deciding a fair fee for a criminal defence?


    These are some of the factors that go into determining a fair fee:

    ·         How serious are the charges?  Will the conviction involve a long sentence?

    ·         What are the other implications to a conviction, for instance, employment and immigration consequences?

    ·         How much time is required for preparation?  How many days will the trial take?  Will there be a jury if you elect that mode of trial?

    ·         What can you afford to pay?  Persons of modest means may pay a reduced fee for that reason.

    ·         Are you prepared to fight a case on a matter of principle only?

    Can I dispute the bill my lawyer gives me? 

    Yes, if you think the bill is too high, you can ask an assessment officer to review it, but you should start that process no later than 30 days after your lawyer sends you their final account.