There are two ways that lawyers bill their clients for legal fees, either a fixed amount, or based on time spent working on the file.
Lawyers will typically bill a fixed amount for wills and residential real estate transactions.
For everything else a lawyer will charge their hourly rate x time spent.
A lawyer’s time spent includes meeting the client about the file, e-mails and phone calls with the client, preparing documents, and comminicating with opposing counsel. A client can help reduce their legal fees by efficiently communiciating with their lawyer. For example, don’t send three e-mails when one will do. If possible try to give your lawyer the information he needs all at once, and in writing.
Don’t forget that lawyers also have to charge for their expenses and GST and PST in addition to legal fees. In a real estate transaction, that can often be more than the legal fees.
Clients usually don’t have issues with fixed rate fees, but I do get complaints about other lawyer’s hourly rate fees. Sometimes they are fair, and sometimes not. If you think they are not fair, you can ask the Court of Queen’s Bench to assess the bill for fairness.
David R. Barth