Managing your legal costs
Most clients want to know the cost of legal services up-front. This is difficult to estimate at the start because it depends on a number of factors:
- The complexity of the legal problem
- The degree of skill and competence required to resolve the case
- The reasonableness of the parties in negotiating the settlement
- The degree of responsibility assumed by the lawyer
- The use of experts (such as business valuation experts, forensic accountants, parenting experts, etc.)
- Various alternative courses of action which may be taken (such as going to Court or staying out of Court)
- The urgency of the work, and time and effort expended
Transparent Billing Practices
Committed To Cost-Effective Outcomes
Settlement-Oriented Legal Advice
What does it mean to retain a lawyer in my family & divorce matter?
When you retain a Family & Divorce lawyer you can expect that the lawyer will give you legal advice and represent you in all aspects of your matter. This includes all communications with the other party or their lawyer, attending meetings, gathering financial and other documentation, drafting settlement proposals, legal research, drafting legal submissions and going to Court.
We work hard to keep costs managable
The Hourly Fee
Typically Family & Divorce lawyers charge by the hour. The range in Edmonton is approx. $200 to $500. Our fees range from $250 to $320 per hour. Students-at-law are billed out at a lower rate, as are paralegal services. In some cases, we may provide select services on a “limited scope” retainer, which means we will assist with a specific legal step or task, and not take on your entire matter.
Before taking on a case, we require what is called a “retainer,” or an amount of money to be held in our trust account as a payment in advance for services to be provided. The specific retainer in your case depends on the nature of your matter, the urgency and whether or not there are immediate legal steps to be taken. You should expect an initial retainer of $3,000 to $5,000.
Family & Divorce lawyers require legal fees to be paid in advance. After providing legal services and rendering a detailed statement of account we then are able to withdraw funds from the retainer held in the trust account. Once the funds held in trust are depleted you will be required to “top up” or replenish the retainer before further legal work is carried out on your behalf.
The Cost of Legal Proceedings
Legal fees can be financially daunting, but we work together with our clients to attempt to keep costs manageable. Often we have to pace the legal work over a number of months instead of intensively all at once is to keep the legal bills manageable.
Important factors to keep legal costs down include:
- Efficiently gather and exchange all the requested financial documentation
- Focus on settlement
- Be prepared to reasonably compromise
We know this is easier said than done when you are experiencing the turmoil of family breakdown, but the alternative could be both emotionally and financially devastating.
Be completely honest and forthcoming
A lawyer can only provide good legal advice when you provide the requested information and the lawyer has the whole story – including the good, the bad and the ugly! In Family & Divorce matters there is a lot of hurt, and a lot of airing of very intimate and personal details about your life. It can be stressful and embarrassing. However, you have to be honest and upfront with your lawyer to receive the most appropriate legal advice. Leaving out important relevant details and not being transparent with financial matters can result in a loss of trust with your lawyer or the end of the lawyer-client relationship. Not being transparent can also cost you more money in legal fees trying to fix problems that could have been avoided or handled more strategically with advance knowledge and full disclosure.
Gather your financial documents and any other key documents requested
In any divorce or dispute over child or spousal support, you will be required to disclose financial documentation. A considerable amount of time and money on fees is often spent ensuring this documentation is gathered and processed. If you gather and provide 2 organized copies of these documents to your lawyer, this will reduce your costs.
- The list of items required in a “Notice to Disclose” for a typical divorce is attached. Financial Disclosure List PDF
- Statement of Income, Assets & Liabilities – the basic Disclosure required in a divorce. Statement of Income, Assets & Liabilities PDF
- Your Budget Monthly Budget PDF
If you are initiating a divorce, you will need a copy of your Marriage Certificate. If you married outside of Canada, it may not be necessary to have the original Marriage Certificate from the country where you married, but it is always helpful. At the very least you will need a copy of a foreign Marriage Certificate and, if not in English, then a translation, as well. It is better to have the Marriage Certificate at the beginning of the process as we must ensure the names and other details are consistent on all legal documents.
Other key information to have available when retaining a Family & Divorce Lawyer:
- Your birthdate and place of birth, and that of your spouse
- The date your relationship began
- The date you began living together
- The date you married
- The dates of the births of your children, with their full names
- The date you separated
- The dates you moved towns or houses during your relationship
- The dates you purchased homes or properties during your relationship
- The dates of any jobs changes, maternity leaves, etc.
- The dates of any legal proceedings or previous Court Orders
Pick your battles
- Consider your legal options
- Listen to legal advice
Be settlement and resolution-focused
In any legal dispute you should be making rational choices, which often involves some degree of compromise. On a cost-benefit analysis it does not make sense to spend $100 fighting over $10. Often it does not make sense to spend $100 fighting over $100, when you consider the stress, the time, and the negative impact on your children.
It is our job as ethical Family & Divorce lawyers to give you legal advice and strategic counsel informed by what is defensible in law and what is (in our judgment) reasonable in the totality of the circumstances. The legal process is unlikely to give anyone in a difficult family dispute the “justice” they feel they deserve. Most people walk away from the legal process feeling let down and frustrated. Even legal “victories” come with financial loss and a sense of having been dragged through some version of a hellish experience. It may be that the judges and the lawyers or the legal process as a whole disappoint, but more often than not, the source of the “loss” is the family breakdown itself.
We always try to do as much work at the front-end to gather the necessary information to put a comprehensive settlement proposal on the table as early as possible.
Consider all pathways to settlement
Before considering going to Court, there are many avenues to explore resolution of your family disputes, including:
- Negotiations, including 4-way settlement meetings with lawyers on both sides
- Mediation – with or without lawyers
- Private Arbitration
- Judicial Dispute Resolution (JDR) – mediation or arbitration with a judge
- Collaborative Divorce
Make sure you have a support system in place
It is critical that you have a support system in place when going through a divorce or any other type of family legal dispute. Whether this is family, friends, a counsellor or a Divorce Coach, you will need someone to talk to, to commiserate with, to vent, to cry, to rage! Your lawyer is an expensive option. Obviously much more cost-effective options include a counsellor or Divorce Coach.
- Family, friends
- Divorce Coach
Brown Law Group is pleased to offer the option of Limited Scope Retainers in appropriate cases. Limited Scope Retainers help to make legal services more affordable for individuals who may not otherwise be in a position to hire a lawyer to handle their entire Family Law matter. Under a Limited Scope Retainer, you hire a lawyer to help you with a specific task, such as preparing an affidavit, preparing a settlement offer, or writing a legal argument. Limited Scope Retainers are appropriate in some, but not all matters. To inquire about whether a Limited Scope Retainer is appropriate for you, please contact our office to book a consultation.
We are committed to “access to justice” in Alberta. Because of this we do accept select cases on Legal Aid Certificates. We believe that all lawyers in private practice should contribute to ensure those without the resources to afford legal representation on a private retainer basis have access to lawyers and the same quality of legal representation as others who pay legal fees on private retainers.
However, as a small firm dedicated to providing personalized client service to all our clients, it’s very difficult to take on more than a select number of cases on Legal Aid Certificates. Given our own limited resources we are simply unable to accept every request for legal representation on Legal Aid Certificates.
Please contact Legal Aid Alberta directly to determine your eligibility for assistance. www.legalaid.ab.ca
Alternatively, you may contact us directly to arrange an in-person consultation to determine whether we would be prepared to take on your case on a Legal Aid Certificate. Please note that our policy on consultations applies regardless of an eventual Legal Aid Certificate.