October 31, 2002
Law Society approves new conduct rule for contingency fees
Fees create greater access to legal services for more Ontarians
The Law Society of Upper Canada today approved a new conduct rule on contingency fees, making legal services in Ontario more accessible to more people.
“The strength of our legal system lies in its ability to be accessible to all people,” said Professor Vern Krishna, Law Society Treasurer. “Today’s action by the Law Society’s governing body opens the doors to greater access and helps bring Ontario up to date with the rest of the country.”
“These fees can prevent prohibitive upfront costs and allow for greater access to justice, particularly for middle class families who cannot afford a lawyer but do not qualify for legal aid,” said Treasurer Krishna.
In determining what percentage to set contingency fees, the rule states that the lawyer and the client in each case should consider a number of factors including the likelihood of success, the nature and complexity of a client’s claim, the expense and risk of pursuing it, and whether the lawyer or client is to receive an award of costs. Any agreement should be in writing and contain a simple example of how the fee is to be calculated. Clients also have the right to apply to the Superior Court of Justice to determine whether a particular contingent fee is fair and reasonable.
Under the rule, contingency fees are not permitted in criminal and family law matters.
The Law Society has long advocated for contingency fees in Ontario. While such fees have been allowed in every other province of Canada – in fact every other jurisdiction in the English-speaking world – they only became legal in this province following a landmark decision by the Ontario Court of Appeal in McIntyre v. Attorney General of Ontario, released Sept. 10.
“Contingency fees are long overdue in Ontario,” said Treasurer Krishna. “The Law Society of Upper Canada exists to govern the legal profession in the public interest. Clearly contingency fees are in the public interest because they provide greater access to justice, and that means helping to make legal services more accessible to people in need.”
For more information about contingency fees and convocation’s decision, see the Professional Regulation Committee’s report to Convocation at http://www.lsuc.on.ca/news/pdf/convoct02_prc.pdf
Sean O’Connor Lucy Rybka-Becker