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Fees and Disbursements

Lawyers and paralegals are permitted to charge fees and disbursements, provided that the amount is fair, reasonable and disclosed to the client in a timely manner. What is fair and reasonable will depend on factors such as 

  • the time and effort required and spent
  • the difficulty of the matter and the importance of the matter to the client
  • whether special skill or service has been required and provided
  • the amount involved or the value of the subject matter
  • the results obtained
  • fees authorized by statute or regulation
  • special circumstances, such as the loss of other retainers, postponement of payment, uncertainty of reward, or urgency
  • the likelihood, if made known to the client, that acceptance of the retainer will result in the lawyer’s inability to accept other employment
  • any relevant agreement between the lawyer or paralegal and the client
  • the experience and ability of the lawyer or paralegal
  • any estimate or range of fees given by the lawyer or paralegal, and
  • the client’s prior consent to the fee

[commentary to rule 3.6-1[1] of the lawyers’ Rules of Professional Conduct (lawyer’s Rules), subrule 5.01(2) of the Paralegal Rules of Conduct].  

You may consider charging fees for your legal services on an hourly basis, by stages of the client's matter, or via a block or flat fee. In certain circumstances, you may be permitted to charge a contingency fee [rules 3.6-1 to 3.6-4 of the lawyers' Rules and subrules 5.01(1) to (8) of the Paralegal Rules].

Before or within a reasonable time after beginning to represent a client, lawyers and paralegals should provide the client with as much information about fees, disbursements, and interest in writing as is reasonably practical in the circumstances. This includes the basis upon which fees will be determined [commentary to rule 3.6-1[3] of the lawyers’ Rules, section 6(a) of Guideline 13: Fees of the Paralegal Professional Conduct Guidelines].

Once the representation has begun, the client is entitled to receive a statement of account that separately details the amount charged as fees and as disbursements.

When something unusual or unforeseen happens that may substantially affect the amount of a fee or disbursement, the lawyer or paralegal should give the client an immediate explanation. As a matter progresses, a lawyer or paralegal should confirm with the client the substance of all fee discussions in writing and may revise an initial estimate of fees and disbursements [rule 3.6-1[4] of the lawyers’ Rules, section 6(b) of Guideline 13: Fees of the Paralegal Professional Conduct Guidelines].

Lawyers and paralegals should not profit from disbursements charged to the client. Any expense that you pay on behalf of the client should be billed to the client for the same amount.

Additional Resources:

Contingency Fees

Litigation Cost Estimate

Sample Client Memorandum: Billing Information