If you have been charged with a criminal charge, you will likely worry about the charges, your job, and your family. But you are also probably worried about money. What is this going to cost me? If you are like most middle-class people, you don’t qualify for legal aid. Plus, you were probably not planning for this expense.
Here are a few issues you should be aware of:
- When you meet with the lawyer for the first time, you are unlikely to get a firm quote for a price. This is not because the lawyer is being wishy-washy. It is simply because it is impossible to tell at the first meeting where the case will go. For example, we have handled hundreds of domestic assault cases. Some of them resolve favorably within a month of our retainer. Others involve a lengthy trial. Many end somewhere in between. One size cannot fit all. If the lawyer you meet quotes a flat fee at the first meeting, consider whether you are getting a cookie-cutter defence as opposed to a defence that is tailored to your specific needs. Consider as well whether that lawyer is really prepared to go to trial in your case at that price.
- The retainer you give at the beginning of the case is a deposit. We put that money into our lawyer’s trust account where it is kept to be applied against your first bill. When we deplete the retainer, we will ask you to replenish it.
- When we have seen the disclosure (i.e. the Crown’s evidence) in your case, we will be in a better position to quote a fee for your case and will do so in most cases.
- As long as you retain us early in the process, we will always work with you on a payment plan. Putting a little bit into our trust account on a monthly basis is a good way to accumulate enough to finance a trial, if you need one.
- Some clients who are interviewing prospective lawyers are frustrated that they cannot know the price at the first meeting because it inhibits their ability to compare shops. Consider whether it is the wisest choice to hire a criminal defence lawyer based on price. It would certainly be a false economy to hire an inexperienced lawyer at a bargain price only to find that he or she is learning to practice criminal law on your case.
- In appropriate cases where cost is a serious issue, we can assign your case to a junior lawyer in our office who can handle most aspects of your files at a reduced rate. However, at our firm, the partners supervise all cases and will still play a role in your defence.
Given everything that is at stake, do not assume that you cannot afford a criminal lawyer or that it is not a good use of your money. In many cases, it will be the most important investment you will ever make in yourself.