Choosing a Canadian lawyer

Tips on choosing a Canadian lawyer

When do I need a lawyer?

The following are examples of circumstances when you should seek a lawyer’s advice:

You need a lawyer if…

  • You’re buying or selling a home, adopting a child, signing an important contract, making a will or organizing a business;
  • You’ve been in an accident where someone was hurt or property was damaged;
  • You are the victim of an abusive spouse;
  • You are accused of a crime;
  • You’ve been injured at work;
  • You are going through a divorce; and
  • You are having problems with your landlord or tenant.

The best time to consult a Canadian lawyer is before, not after, you have legal problems.

It can save you money in the long run and keep any legal difficulties to a minimum. A Canadian lawyer can help by offering you legal counseling and advice, preparing documents and, if necessary, representing you in court and other legal proceedings.

How can a lawyer help me?

Canadian law can be very complicated and lawyers are trained to deal effectively with these complexities. In Canada, a lawyer must have attended a federal-accredited law school, be licensed, and must abide by strict rules of legal procedure and ethics. In some cases, a lawyer may agree that you can do some of the work yourself (like making certain telephone calls and obtaining documents), to save you money, while he/she handles the more complicated aspects of your case.

Many laws are complex and frequently change. Lawyers are trained to explain the law, provide legal assistance, and be aware of court procedures, filing requirements, deadlines and other details that a non-lawyer could easily overlook.

How do I find the right lawyer?

Your goal is to find a lawyer with whom you are comfortable as both a person and a professional. Your case may involve very personal information and your lawyer will often need to know confidential details about you, your family and your finances to be effective in helping you.

One of the best ways to find a lawyer is to seek a recommendation from people whose opinions you respect: an employer, lawyer at your workplace, teacher, minister, doctor, relative, neighbor or friends.

The nature of your legal problem will help define the type of lawyer you will want to hire. Often lawyers have one or more specialties, and you want to make sure your lawyer has experience in your type of case. The lawyer who did a terrific job with your friend’s divorce may not have the expertise to take on your auto accident injury matter.

What should I ask a lawyer?

At the first meeting you should ask about the following topics. Keep in mind, some lawyers charge a fee for your first consultation, some don’t.

  • The amount of experience the lawyer has in your type of legal matter;
  • A preliminary outline of how the lawyer believes the case should be handled and the time frame for its completion;
  • Whether or not the lawyer carries malpractice insurance;
  • How you can or will be expected to participate in your case;
  • How you will be kept informed about the status of the matter;
  • Whether or not the lawyer will provide you with a fee agreement that details fees, expenses, billing and payment;
  • The lawyer’s hourly fee (if applicable); and
  • An estimate of the lawyer’s total fee.

After meeting with the lawyer ask yourself the following questions:

  • Will I be comfortable working closely with this person?
  • Am I confident that the lawyer has the experience and skill to handle your case?
  • Do I clearly understand the lawyer’s explanation of what my case involves?
  • Do I understand the proposed fee agreement?