Frequently Asked Questions
- What is my role, as the client?
As the client, you will decide the general direction of your matter. As your lawyer, our job is to provide you with legal advice on the different options available to move your matter forward, including the pros, cons and costs associated with each. We will usually make a recommendation, but the final decision will be yours. We will then provide legal services necessary to carry out your instructions.
We cannot accept instructions that are in conflict with our duties to the courts, other lawyers or the public. The Code of Conduct of the Law Society of Alberta sets out the standards we as lawyers are to meet.
- How will my lawyer communicate with me?
Two-way communication is very important in a lawyer-client relationship. Many of our lawyers communicate by email or phone. Regular contact with you is critical in order to provide updates on your matter and obtain your further instructions.
It is our goal to respond to client emails or phone calls within 1-2 business days, where applicable. We ask that our clients also respond to our emails or phone calls in a timely fashion. If we do not receive instructions from you on a matter, we are unable to continue to provide legal services on your behalf.
- Is the information I tell my lawyer confidential?
Certain communications between solicitor and client are absolutely confidential. This is known as “solicitor-client privilege.” Because of it, you can give your lawyer all of the facts relevant to your matter without fear that prejudicial information will become public.
Not all solicitor-client communications are privileged. The privilege only arises when the client reveals information in confidence to obtain legal advice or services. Information that you give your lawyer that is not privileged is instead treated as confidential, and, as such, may be disclosed in certain circumstances. The Law Society of Alberta’s Code of Conduct outlines the limited circumstances in which confidential information may be disclosed.
- What does it mean to ‘retain a lawyer’?
To retain a lawyer means to hire a lawyer to assist you with your legal matter. There are two parts to hiring a lawyer: a retainer letter and the payment of a retainer.
Once we have been retained by you, we will provide you with a retainer letter which sets out the matter on which you have sought our services and details of the lawyer-client relationship. This includes how you will be charged for legal services, forms communication with you and assurance of confidentiality.
Many lawyers will also require the payment of a retainer before providing legal services. A retainer is essentially a down-payment on legal services, which is held in trust by our firm for you. As we perform legal services on your behalf and provide a statement of account for those services, we will draw down the retainer. Once it has been depleted, we may ask for an additional retainer if more work is required to be performed on your behalf. If your matter is resolved and there are still retainer funds being held in trust for you, the remaining funds will be returned to you.
- How will I be charged for a lawyer’s services?
Our statements of accounts are broken into three categories: legal fees, disbursements and other charges.
Legal fees are our charges for services and are subject to GST. Typically, legal fees are charged on an hourly rate or time basis. In determining the chargeable time for a matter, we include telephone calls, emails, meetings, preparation time, sending, receiving and reviewing correspondence, drafting documents, travel time, reviewing documents and files, research, court appearances and all time spent in providing legal services to you on the matter. We will provide you with regular statements of account which will detail the services provided to you.
Some legal services are provided at a flat-rate charge. Other services may be provided on a contingency basis, whereby our legal fee is a percentage of the amount, if any, recovered in the matter.
Disbursements are payments we make to third parties for expenses incurred on your behalf. We incur these expenses as your agent. Some examples include courier charges, Land Titles Office fees, Corporate Registry fees and court filing fees. You will be responsible for paying our disbursements on your matter as well as GST, where applicable.
Other charges include charges for non-legal services, such as photocopying, printing and special stationary costs.
- What is a trust account?
We maintain a separate bank account for money we hold in trust for our clients, designated as a trust account. The Law Society of Alberta has very strict standards for lawyers’ trust accounts. Trust accounts are audited annually by a professional accountant and the results of the audit are reported to the Law Society. The Law Society also conducts spot audits. In most cases, the interest on trust accounts goes to the Law Foundation of Alberta and is used for law reform and public legal education.