Law Society recommendations take aim at 'You don’t pay unless we win' cases

November 13, 2017
Article Source
Toronto Star

Ontario's lawyers will have to become a lot more transparent when they take a case on contingency — you don't pay unless we win — and a lot more straightforward in their communications with clients.

They’ll have to give their clients a "know your rights guide" at the outset of a case and, when there's a settlement, they'll have to present them with a precise breakdown of expenses incurred while working on the case, their fees and a statement explaining why it's reasonable.

These are among the latest recommendations in a series of moves by a Law Society of Upper Canada working group that has been studying legal fee issues and lawyers' advertising practices for more than a year.

They are intended to reform the contingency-fee system and protect consumers from what a law society press release calls "unscrupulous practices and unreasonable fees."

The final decision on these recommendations will be decided by vote at the legal regulator's convocation meeting Dec. 1. If they are adopted, the province's lawyers will also have to make public the maximum percentage they intend to charge when there's a settlement.

"The recommendations we are proposing focus on transforming the way contingency fees work, providing equal access to justice for all individuals regardless of their ability to pay, while increasing clarity and visibility and consumer protection," Malcolm Mercer, chair of the Law Society's Advertising and Fee Arrangements Issues working group, said.

Earlier this year, the working group debated capping contingency fees as a means to reform the problematic system.

Ultimately, the group concluded that doing so would create "significant barriers to the justice system, particularly for some of society's most vulnerable people," according to the 23-page report. 

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