Frequently Asked Questions
What is a retainer?
A retainer is a sum of money given by a client to a lawyer before the lawyer agrees to start working for the client. The retainer must be deposited in the lawyer's trust account, which has special rules about when the lawyer can use that money. The money held in trust remains the client's money until the lawyer has done work and prepared a bill for that work or until the lawyer has incurred a disbursement for the client and received a bill for that disbursement. At that point, the lawyer can use the money held in trust for the client to pay his or her bill or pay the bill for the disbursement. At the end of the case, if there is anything left over in trust after the final bill for the lawyer's work and all bills for disbursements have been paid, whatever is left is returned to the client.
How much do you need for a retainer?
The amount of the retainer needed will depend on the nature of the file and the amount of work to be done. For example, on a family law file, if you are only seeking to have me prepare your court documents in your name, but not represent you in Court, the retainer will be less than if you want me to represent you in Court. The retainer needed for a file where we are working towards a separation agreement will be different than for a file where there is litigation. In any of those cases, the retainer represents only the initial amount required to start work on the file, and not an estimate of the cost of the entire file. As the retainer is used up, it will need to be replenished from time to time as the file continues. Please contact me to discuss your specific case and how much of a retainer I would need prior to starting work.
About Fees and Disbursements
What is your hourly rate?
My current hourly rate is $300 per hour. I keep dockets of all work done on your file with the time recorded to the tenth of an hour. In addition the the fees based on my hourly rate, I charge for disbursements, and there is Harmonized Sales Tax payable on both fees and disbursements. Where I must set aside a half-day or a full day for a Court appearance on your file, I will generally charge a minimum counsel fee of $1,500 for a half-day or $3,000 for a full day, because I am blocking off that time for you and devoting that time exclusively to your file.
If I must travel outside of the Region of Durham for your case, I charge my travel time at half my usual hourly rate.
Do you do cases on block fees?
I do not do family law cases on a block-fee basis; however, I am more than happy to accept a limited-scope retainer and bill you for the work you want me to do. If you are looking for that, call or email to discuss your options.
For criminal law cases, I do offer clients the option of being billed on an hourly-fee basis or on a block-fee basis. If you elect to be billed on a block-fee basis, there will be one block fee covering all work from after the bail hearing, through the intake and judicial pre-trial phases, and a guilty plea and basic sentencing, but not a trial (or preliminary hearing) or a sentencing where the Crown elects to call evidence to prove aggravating facts. If your matter proceeds to a trial, preliminary hearing, or a sentencing hearing where the Crown tries to prove aggravating facts (called a Gardiner hearing), there will be an additional fee per day of court. If you want to retain me for a bail hearing, that is also a separate fee.
What do you charge for disbursements?
For "hard cost" disbursements such as courier charges, postage, expert reports, out-of-office copies (court, medical records, etc.), process server charges, court filing fees, etc., I charge you what I am charged without markup or deduction. For "soft cost" disbursements where I am charging to cover bulk office costs, such as long-distance telephone calls, photocopies & printing, faxes, etc., I am currently charging the following amounts:
- Photocopies & printing: $0.50 per page
- Faxes: $0.75 per page
- Long-Distance Telephone Calls: $1.50 per call plus $0.30 per minute
- Mileage for travel outside of Durham Region: $0.40 per kilometre
- Family Law Continuing Record: $3.50 per volume (for each copy needed)
- Court Record Tabs: $0.25 per tab
I also charge a file set-up fee of $15.00 to cover the cost of your physical file. Finally, I am required by the Law Society of Upper Canada to charge a Transaction Levy of $50.00 plus HST on each file where I file certain documents with the Court (this is per file, and is triggered when the first document is filed, and is not charged again for additional documents in the same file).