The following information is provided as general information only. It is not legal advice.
The Law Society does not set fees for legal services and cannot reduce a lawyer's or paralegal's bill that you think is too high. However, there are certain steps that you can take to address any concerns you may have about your legal bill.
First, your lawyer or paralegal must provide you with a bill that shows a lump sum for fees, which may be based on an hourly rate or an agreed flat fee, and a breakdown of disbursements. Disbursements are expenses your lawyer or paralegal has paid on your behalf to other parties who have provided services in support of your case as well as other items such as postage and photocopies.
If you have not received a bill, contact your lawyer or paralegal to request one. If you have difficulty obtaining a bill, the Law Society may be able to assist you. Submit a complaint in writing to the Law Society.
Once you have received your bill, you have two options if you think your lawyer or paralegal has charged you too much for legal services. The first option is to talk to your lawyer or paralegal about the bill. The second option is different depending on whether you retained a lawyer or paralegal.
1. Talk with your lawyer or paralegal
Your lawyer or paralegal or someone in the legal office can tell you exactly what your representative did in your case and how long it took. If you tell the lawyer or paralegal why you feel the bill is too high, he or she may, in some cases, be willing to reduce the account.
2. If you hired a paralegal, submit a claim at Small Claims Court
If you are unable to settle the dispute over the bill directly with your paralegal, you may contact the Small Claims Court. Currently, the jurisdiction of the Small Claims Court is limited to claims of $25,000 or less.
You can find the telephone number for the Small Claims Court nearest you on the Ontario Attorney General's website. There are several in Toronto and throughout Ontario. All necessary forms and brochures can be found on the same website, including Guides to Making a Claim and the Small Claims Court Fees.
2. If you hired a lawyer, assess your lawyer's bill
If you are unable to settle the dispute over the bill directly with your lawyer, you may contact the Assessment Office to have your bill reviewed. This is a process whereby an Assessment Officer of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice reviews a lawyer's bill.
Do not wait too long to start the assessment process. If you begin more than one month from the time you received your lawyer's bill, you will have to get permission from a judge of the Superior Court of Justice to have the bill reviewed. This may cost you time and money and you may not receive the judge's permission.
The www.LawHelpOntario.org website has detailed information on the assessment process, especially the How do I Get a Lawyer's Bill Reviewed tip sheet.
If you have a complaint about your lawyer or paralegal that does not involve the amount of the bill, see the Law Society's page on complaining about a lawyer or paralegal.