Getting Started

Retaining A Lawyer

You need help and decide you need a lawyer.  If you have never hired a lawyer it can be intimidating.  Here we explain the basics of the lawyer/client relationship – to reduce the mystery and hopefully some of the anxiety.

It is as easy as Contacting Us (Step 1), Setting Up a Meeting (Step 2) and Retaining Us (Step 3).

Step 1 – Contact Us

You need to connect with us to determine if we have the right mix of skills for your task, and to determine if you want to work with us. You can contact us by phone or e-mail and be ready with a very brief description of your current situation.

You will be connected quickly to someone (sometimes a lawyer directly, sometimes a legal assistant) who can take down some more specific details – to get you on the most appropriate path as soon as possible. 

If you want to contact us by e-mail there are two different ways you can direct your inquiry.  Our preferred route is by contacting our legal assistant, Kim Powell at kim@christopherarnold.ca with a brief description of your situation and any questions, concerns or immediate needs.  We prefer this route as Kim is usually able to respond more quickly and can book a time for you to connect with Chris to discuss the matter in more detail.  You can also e-mail Chris directly at chris@christopherarnold.ca but response time can be a bit slower.

In both cases, it is important to be brief and give just a summary of your current situation.  This is not the time to “tell the whole story” or go into deep detail about the people or history of the matter that you are tangling with.  At this stage we are still just trying to ensure we are the right professionals for you, so just a paragraph or two saying what your issue is about and what kind of help you think you want or need is all that is necessary.  Formulating actual questions sometimes helps focus your mind to what you really want or need to know.

Step 2 – Setting Up a Meeting

Once you have made contact and are advised generally that we believe we can assist you, then it is time for two questions:

The lawyer will ask, after clarifying your needs:  “Is this matter something that we can help this client with?” 

And then you must ask: “Is this lawyer the one I want to hire to help me achieve my objectives?”

Step 2 is all about setting up a meeting with that lawyer so you can exchange the information both of you will need to answer those questions.  The lawyer will want some more detail to analyze your objectives and determine if we are in a position to help.  You will want some more information about our services and what the process ahead looks like, and perhaps exactly how we propose to move you towards your goals.

That meeting can be live, or it can be by phone.  It can be brief, or long.  Our general rule is that only the first 15 minutes are free and that is usually enough to get a sense if you want to work with us.  However, if your matter is complex, we may require a retainer (payment) to do the initial detailed analysis necessary to determine if your matter is worthy of pursuit.  We will advise you if that is the case and we will always let you know when we are “turning on the meter”.

It is probably a good idea to review how this law firm charges clients. 

Where you are retaining us to achieve a goal or objective (such as resolving family law issues by negotiation or litigation) your account will be directly related to how much work the lawyer expends on your behalf moving you towards that goal.  We track that work through the recording of the time spent.  The time spent (expressed in hours, broken down to minimum units of 0.1 of an hour or six minutes) is then multiplied by the hourly rate of the lawyer or legal professional providing the services, and that is the amount of legal fees billed to you.  GST is added.

The question is then: “What time is charged?”  Generally, we will want to “start the meter” once the initial mutual interview between lawyer and client is over, and we start gathering more detailed information towards being in a position to give you advice and begin acting on your behalf.  As a general rule after about 10 or 15 minutes of discussion between lawyer and prospective client, we will have an idea if we are in a position to help you, and you will have an idea whether or not you want to hire us.  If we both want to move forward, then generally that is when the lawyer will talk to you about Step 3 – Retaining Us, which is the process of formally hiring us to work for you.

So, in summary, it doesn’t cost anything to call us.  It doesn’t cost anything for us to discuss whether or not we can assist you.  It doesn’t cost anything until we advise that we can assist you, and you have made a choice that you want us to assist you – and then we need to be “retained” (see the next step) – and the work we do from there on in is billable to you.

Step 3 – Retaining Us

“Retainer” is a word used by lawyers in two ways. 

It refers to the Retainer Agreement, which is a contract between you and the firm for the provision of professional services.  We agree on the detailed terms of the professional relationship.  Those terms relate to what you want us to do or what you want to achieve, what we charge for, how much we charge, payment and billing terms, and how and when the relationship might end.

“Retainer” also refers to the Retainer Deposit, which is a sum of money that we require be deposited with us to secure payment of future accounts.  The money is deposited into our Trust Account, and stays there until an account is rendered, when, at the lawyer’s discretion, it can be applied to the account owing, or kept as continuing security.

Generally, we need to “be retained”, which means you must complete and sign a written Retainer Agreement, as well as receive and process a Retainer Deposit BEFORE we can do any real work for you (such as detailed info gathering, analysis, strategy, recommendations, advice or communicating with your spouse or their lawyer).  

In some circumstances, such as emergencies, we will render services to you that are billable before we are retained.  That is the exception however, and generally we require payment of the Retainer Deposit be made either in advance or at the time the services are rendered. 

It doesn’t cost anything to
call us.