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Chapter9 out of 14 chapters in the annotated Professional Conduct Handbook




0.1 In this chapter, "another lawyer" includes a lawyer who is:

(a) a member of a recognized legal profession in any other jurisdiction, and

(b) acting in compliance with the law and any rules of the legal profession of the other jurisdiction.

[added 03/04]

Excessive fees

1. A lawyer must not charge an excessive fee.

[amended 03/04]


Referral fees

2. A lawyer must not:

(a) pay any remuneration to a person, other than another lawyer, in exchange for that person referring a client to the lawyer, or

(b) act for a client if, to the lawyer's knowledge, a person other than another lawyer was paid any remuneration by the client in exchange for being referred to the lawyer.

[amended 05/98; 03/04]

3. A lawyer acting for a client who was referred to the lawyer by another lawyer may pay that other lawyer remuneration for the referral only if, at the commencement of the retainer, the lawyer fully discloses the remuneration to the client and the client consents in writing to its payment.

[amended 03/04]


Prepaid legal services plan

4. A lawyer who accepts a client referred by a prepaid legal services plan must advise the client in writing of:

(a) the scope of work to be undertaken by the lawyer under the plan, and

(b) the extent to which a fee or disbursement will be payable by the client to the lawyer.

[amended 03/04]

Apportionment of fees

5. A lawyer who acts for two or more clients in the same matter must apportion the fees and disbursements equitably among them, in the absence of an agreement to the contrary.

[amended 03/04]

Sharing fees

6. Subject to Rule 6.1, a lawyer must not split, share or divide a client's fee with any person other than another lawyer.1

[amended 05/1998; 03/2004; 12/2009, effective 07/010]


6.1 A lawyer permitted to practise in a multi-disciplinary practice (MDP) under the Rules may share fees, profits or revenue from the practice of law in the MDP with a non-lawyer member of the MDP only if all the owners of the MDP are individuals or professional corporations2 actively involved in the MDP’s delivery of legal services to clients or in the management of the MDP.3

[added 12/2009, effective 07/2010]

Hidden fees

7. A lawyer must fully disclose, to the client or to any other person who is paying part or all of the lawyer's fee, any fee that is being charged or accepted.

[amended 03/04]

8. A lawyer must take no fee, reward, costs, commission, interest, rebate, agency or forwarding allowance or other compensation whatsoever related to the lawyer's professional employment from anyone other than the client or the person who is paying part or all of the lawyer's fee on behalf of the client, without full disclosure to and consent of the client or that other person.

[amended 03/04]

9. A lawyer who is financially interested in the person to whom disbursements are made or by whom services are performed, such as an investigating, brokerage or copying company, must expressly disclose this fact to the client.

[amended 03/04]


*     *     *


1. This provision does not prohibit a lawyer from paying an employee for services other than referring clients based on the revenue of the lawyer's firm or practice.

[added 05/1998]

2. See the definition of “professional corporation” in Rule 1 of the Law Society Rules.

[added 12/2009, effective 07/2010]

3. This rule also allows a lawyer to share fees or profits of an MDP with a non-lawyer for the purpose of paying out the ownership interest of the non-lawyer acquired by the non-lawyer’s active participation in the MDP’s delivery of services to clients or in the management of the MDP.

See also the definition of “MDP” in Rule 1 and Rules 2-23.1 to 2-23.12 of the Law Society Rules.

[added 12/2009, effective 07/2010]

*     *     *


Rule 1 - Excessive fees

A lawyer who prepares an inflated account in an attempt to seek compensation for work he had already done for his clients on a pro bono basis is guilty of professional misconduct.
DCD 01-26

A lawyer charged and billed to clients approximately $75 in personal disbursements, which he believed represented a fair set-off for disbursements that he paid personally on their behalf while working at home. Although it was done for administrative convenience, it constituted professional misconduct.
2004 LSBC 38

A lawyer approved and submitted fraudulent or inflated accounts of his client's children for a publicly funded criminal trial. His neglect in carefully reviewing those accounts and submitting them as disbursements to his own account amounted to a blatant and cavalier disregard for the duty owed to the funder. It exhibited a marked departure from the standard of conduct the Law Society expects of its members and he was guilty of professional misconduct.
2005 LSBC 16

When costs associated with legal services of a contract lawyer are billed to a client as fees for legal services, the amount that may be charged for such services is governed by this Rule. Where a lawyer hires a contract lawyer to do legal research, for example, and incurs expenses in contracting for the work by reviewing the work or otherwise adding value to the work, it is proper to bill the client for that work, provided the charges are reasonable. Such charges must be disclosed to the client and where the charge is for value added to the work, the work should be billed to the client as a fee, not a disbursement.
EC February 2006, item 5

Rule 2 - Referral fees

A lawyer acting in a mutual referral relationship with a Credit Union, and who is not paid any fee by the Credit Union for giving advice, is not prohibited from giving free advice to Credit Union members who have received a coupon entitling them to hour of free advice from the lawyer.
EC September 1995, item 10

A lawyer who uses the services of a commercial lawyer referral service does not violate Rule 2 provided the following criteria are met:

  • the service does not charge a fee to the client;
  • the fee the lawyer pays is not for the referral for a particular client, but is a fee for the lawyer's name to be placed or maintained on a roster of available lawyers;
  • the service maintains a roster of lawyers to whom clients are referred after the service determines the area of law in which the lawyer's services are required;
  • the fee charged to a lawyer is a flat fee and does not reflect the number of referrals made; and
  • when the client contacts the referral service, the service provides the client with information about several different lawyers who practice in a given area and leaves it up to the client to determine which lawyer, if any, to contact

EC March 2000, item 7

Provided a lawyer does not pay for the referrals, a lawyer is not prohibited by Rule 2 from acting for a client who comes to him through a divorce centre, which provides materials on the general subject of divorce and provides, without fee, names of lawyers that practice in the area of family law.
EC April 2000, item 6

Rule 6 - Sharing fees

Provided that a lawyer does not breach confidentiality to his client in the course of calculating his wife's share of a law corporation's profits, the lawyer may enter a matrimonial settlement where the wife receives an annual payment equal to 10% of the profits of the law corporation in exchange for her interest in his law practice.
EC March 1994, item 3

Where the vendor of a law practice is no longer a member of the Law Society, the payment of compensation by the purchaser is not a division of a client's fee within the meaning of the Rule.
EC October 31 1996, item 4

A lawyer acting for plaintiffs in class proceedings is not prevented by Rule 6 from making submissions about allocation of fees between lawyer and plaintiff out of approved class counsel legal fees and may accept such fees when ordered by the court.
EC May 2009, item 3

Rules 7 and 8 - Hidden fees

Where a law firm hires a lawyer to provide services to one of the firm's clients on a contract basis, it is proper for the law firm to surcharge the client for that lawyer's bill where the firm incurred expenses in contracting for that work or added some value to his work. Whether the contract lawyers cost should be billed as a disbursement or as a fee depends on the terms of the retainer with the client.
EC September 1996, item 3

Where a lawyer receives air mile benefits as a result of work done for a client, a single transaction with a client might fall within a de minimis rule if the air miles accruing to the lawyer as a result of the transaction are of very small financial benefit. However, in cases where a lawyer may receive a substantial benefit because of the size of a single transaction for a client or because the lawyer acts on multiple transactions, it would be necessary for the lawyer to make full disclosure of the benefit and obtain the client's consent to receiving it pursuant to Rule 8.
EC February 1997, item 12

A lawyer may add surcharges to disbursements if they reasonably reflect actual costs incurred on behalf of the client, and they are disclosed in the statement of account to the client in accordance with this Rule.
EC October 1997, item 5

Receiving payment from a client while on a legal aid retainer for the same services constitutes professional misconduct.
DCD 99-01

It is proper for a lawyer to take a percentage of real estate commission as a fee, provided the choice to pay the lawyer in this way is that of the client and the client's right to review the lawyer's bill is not impaired.
EC Oct 5 2000, item 10

A lawyer on a legal aid retainer will be guilty of professional misconduct if he accepts money from the client on the account.
DCD 03-04



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Chapter 9 out of 14 chapters in the annotated Professional Conduct Handbook