Lawyers have an obligation to be fair and transparent in the fees they charge. However, the Law Society does not regulate lawyers' fees so if you have a disagreement with a lawyer over the amount of fees, filing a complaint with the Law Society will not resolve that dispute. The Law Society cannot order the lawyer to reduce his or her bill. There are other means of resolving disputes over fees.

If you don’t understand some of the items on your bill or if you disagree with the amount, you should first talk it over with your lawyer or the managing partner in the lawyer’s firm. Go over the details and ask the lawyer to explain why a particular charge was made.

If you and your lawyer cannot resolve your disagreement, there are a number of options, including the free Law Society Fee Mediation Program.

Apply for fee mediation

The Law Society's free Fee Mediation Program helps lawyers and clients resolve fee disputes quickly without having to go to court. The program offers distance mediation allowing a client and lawyer to resolve a dispute without having to meet in person, saving time and expense.

Overview

  • The program is entirely voluntary and both the client and lawyer must agree to participate — either party can withdraw from the mediation at any time.
  • A private mediator is provided for free.
  • Mediation can occur in person or at a distance.
  • Clients do not need a lawyer to represent them.
  • The amount in dispute must be between $1,000 and $25,000.
  • If either the client or the lawyer has already dealt with the fees in court or reached an agreement through some other process, the dispute is not eligible for fee mediation.

How it works

  1. A client or lawyer can begin the process by completing the Application for Fee Mediation.
  2. Send the application to the Law Society to the attention of the Intake Officer, Fee Mediation Program.
  3. The Law Society will contact the other party to determine whether there is a mutual interest in using the Fee Mediation Program.
  4. If both parties agree to participate, the Law Society will appoint a mediator from our list of qualified and experienced mediators. Mediators are independent of the Law Society.
  5. The mediator will contact the client and lawyer and arrange a mediation session. The form of the mediation — in person or by distance (video and telephone conferencing) — is up to the participants. The fee mediation is limited to three hours.
  6. The mediator manages the process to help the client and lawyer resolve their disagreement. 

The mediation process is done on a “without prejudice” basis. This means that anyone who agrees to participate in the Fee Mediation Program admits nothing more than a willingness to participate and any negotiations during the process cannot be used in any subsequent court proceedings.

Download the Fee Mediation Application Form.

BC Supreme Court Registrar Fee Review

If you are unable to resolve a dispute regarding fees by discussing it with your lawyer or through the Law Society Fee Mediation Program, another option is a review by the BC Supreme Court Registrar.Under the Legal Profession Act, lawyers and clients have the right to have a lawyer’s bill reviewed by a BC Supreme Court registrar. A fee review is a formal process similar to a court hearing and is administered by the BC Supreme Court. Normally, a fee review must be filed no later than three months after the bill was paid or, if unpaid, within one year after it was sent to the client. Contingency fee agreements can also be reviewed within three months after the agreement was made or terminated.

For more information on fee reviews, see the BC Supreme Court's publication Legal Profession Act Review Process. (Go to the Supreme Court site and search the site for "legal profession act review" to find the document.)

The table below summarizes some key differences between the Law Society program and the BC Supreme Court Registrar process.

Law Society Fee Mediation Program BC Supreme Court Registrar
Free $80 fee paid by the applicant and potential costs (awarded against the losing party)
For fee disputes of $1,000 to $25,000 No limit to the dollar value of the dispute
Available in person or at a distance using online meeting technology Must attend in person
Private Public
Informal A court process with testimony and a decision after the hearing
Time is capped at three hours May be lengthy; no set limit on hearing time
Requires consent of both parties Does not require consent of both parties
Able to be processed and completed relatively quickly Formal process may be lengthy
May result in binding settlement agreement Decision is a court judgment, which is more easily enforced

Court action

Clients and lawyers have the right to sue over fee disagreements in either the BC Provincial Court (Small Claims) or the BC Supreme Court.