Common billing practices
Fixed fee for all work regardless of the time involved. This method of billing is often used for specific transactions such as incorporating a business or purchasing a house. Some lawyers also use a fixed fee for specific types of court appearances such as defending a client on a minor criminal charge.
Hourly rate which includes time spent on the phone, in meetings, doing research, preparing documents, dealing with correspondence, appearing in court and anything else involving your file. Hourly rates usually reflect the lawyer's skill and experience - senior lawyers charge more per hour than lawyers who are just starting out in practice.
Contingency fee or a percentage of the money the client wins in a lawsuit. If no money is recovered, the lawyer generally collects no fee. Contingency fee agreements are common in personal injury claims, product liability cases and class actions. More about contingency fees.
Retainer is a sum of money you pay to your lawyer as a deposit for the services the lawyer will perform for you and the expenses the lawyer will incur on your behalf. Your lawyer will submit accounts to you, which will be paid from the retainer.
Disbursements are expenses incurred by your lawyer on your behalf such as government fees, court filing fees, courier charges, photocopying costs or fees paid for expert reports from people such as doctors or engineers. You are responsible for these expenses and they will be included in your legal bill.
Taxes Lawyers are required to charge GST and PST on all fees and most disbursements.
Note that the Law Society does not set lawyers' fees and there are no fixed rates for legal services.