BUSINESS LAWYERS *
STANDARD TERMS OF REPRESENTATION
WHO WILL ACT AS YOUR LAWYER?
In most cases there will be a principal lawyer contact in the firm who will have primary responsibility for your work. However, other lawyers, legal assistants and non-lawyer personnel may work on your account. You will be kept informed of personnel who are working on your behalf. Your principal lawyer will remain your central contact with Norton Stewart and will continue to supervise work on your account.
OUR ASSESSMENT OF POSSIBLE OUTCOMES
We are often asked to state our judgment about the outcome of legal matters. We will gladly offer an opinion to the best of our professional ability. However, any statements or opinions we express can only be based on professional judgment. We cannot provide guarantees.
In many cases, there are simply no clear-cut answers to legal questions, nor is it possible to predict with certainty how a particular matter would be resolved at a future date. Facts change from day to day and, in some instances, the law itself can be changed by the legislature or by the courts. Despite these uncertainties, we will work with you to allow you to make informed decisions regarding your legal affairs,
Generally, fees for legal services are determined by the amount of time spent on client matters. Time is not the only factor to be considered and in determining fees, we may consider some or all of the following factors:
- The time and effort required, the novelty and complexity of the issues presented and the skill required to perform the legal services promptly;
- The fees customarily charged in the community for similar services and the value of the services to you;
- The nature and longevity of our professional relationship with you; The experience, reputation and expertise of those performing the services;
- The extent to which office procedures and systems have efficiently produced a high quality product.
Of these factors, we generally rely most heavily on the “time and effort required.” All of our lawyers and legal assistants keep accurate daily records of time spent on your matters. These records will include the names of any lawyer or legal assistant working on your matter, the type of task performed, the date and the amount of time spent in one-tenth hour segments. Typical tasks involved in legal matters, and for which you will be billed, include telephone and in-person conferences, legal and factual research, preparation of legal documents and correspondence, review of documents, negotiation and courtroom appearances. As discussed later, these time records are compiled in our billing system and are available to you at your request.
Our basic fee for most services is calculated by multiplying the hours spent times the hourly rate of the professional performing the services at the time the fees were incurred. Our hourly rates are regularly reviewed to reflect the current levels of legal experience of our professionals, changes in overhead or other costs and changes in the marketplace. Our hourly rates do change over time and, like most other costs, they generally are revised upward.
We only act on a fixed-fee basis for certain types of routine matters or by special arrangement with a particular client. In these situations, the fixed-fee arrangement is expressed in a letter, setting forth both the amount of the fee and the scope of the services to be provided.
We are often asked to estimate the amount of fees and costs likely to be charged in a particular matter. Except for fixed-fee matters described previously, these estimates are not guaranteed maximum amounts. Except in rare types of matters, it is impossible to predict exactly how much time and effort will be required. This is especially applicable in matters involving litigation or negotiation, where factors not within our control often affect the fee.
Please note that all monetary references in our communications with you are in Canadian currency unless otherwise specifically noted. Unless otherwise agreed to in writing, all payments are to be made in Canadian currency. All payments, other than by cheque or draft drawn on a Canadian Chartered Bank or Credit Union, must be made by wire to our designated account at the client’s expense unless other arrangements are specifically agreed to.
OTHER COSTS AND EXPENSES
By engaging us, you have agreed that, except as otherwise agreed in writing, we may incur out-of-pocket costs and hire court reporters, accountants, appraisers, investigators or other appropriate experts determined by us to be necessary in representing you. These costs are incurred on your behalf and you are responsible to reimburse us for them. These costs will be itemized on your billing statement.
These costs typically include messenger, courier and express delivery charges; service of process; computerized research costs; filing fees; deposition and transcript costs; witness fees; travel expenses and mileage; charges made by outside experts and consultants, including accountants and appraisers; postage, third party printing and copying and any other out-of-pocket expenses directly devoted to your cause. We will also charge for certain overhead expenses such as long distance telephone calls, conference calls, in-house photocopying or scanning costs, and faxes, which are charged at cost plus a mark-up. These costs may be recorded and billed after the services are rendered, depending upon the circumstances, and unless arrangements for direct billing have been made. Some costs also include an administrative charge to cover the cost of processing the charges.
In addition to our legal fees and expenses, you agree to pay any value added or sales taxes that are applicable under Provincial or Federal laws.
We will normally bill you for our fees and other costs incurred either on completion of our services or more frequently if the matter is to continue beyond one month, unless other arrangements are made and mutually agreed upon in writing. If you have any questions about the bill, please call your principal lawyer. He or she will gladly discuss them. We do not charge for time spent responding to reasonable inquiries from clients about their bills.
Our invoices are due when rendered.
Arrangements for deferred payment(s) must be made in advance. After 30 days from the date of the invoice, any unpaid fees or costs will accrue interest (compounded annually) at the rate of one percent (1.0%) per month (annual rate of 12%). Payments are applied in the following order: first, to accrued interest; second, to unpaid costs; third, to unpaid fees.
PAST DUE ACCOUNTS
If payments are persistently late or statements are not paid, we reserve the right to withdraw as your lawyer. If a disagreement arises about our fees, which we are unable to resolve, you have the right to ask the Registrar of the Supreme Court of British Columbia to review them. The Legal Profession Act and the Rules of the Supreme Court Rules give you this right.
Clients may be asked to deposit a retainer with the firm. Legal fees and costs will be withdrawn as the services are rendered and invoiced or upon completion of the matter. Most retainer deposits do not bear interest and they are held in the firm’s trust account. If the retainer is used up, the client is to replenish it unless otherwise agreed. When we conclude our representation, any balance remaining in the retainer account will be returned to you. In some circumstances, where the scope of our services for you has expanded beyond our initial understanding, it may be necessary to increase the amount of the retainer.
We may receive other funds from you for a variety of reasons. These will be placed in a trust account on your behalf. Where the amount is small or held for only a short period of time, we will place it in a pooled trust account that does not bear interest on your behalf. Any interest earned on these deposits is paid to the Law Society of British Columbia. Larger deposits that are held for a longer period of time may, on request, be deposited in a separate, interest-bearing trust account for your benefit. This interest must be reported by you as interest income for income tax purposes. An administrative charge may be applicable to setting up such an account.
CLIENT IDENTIFICATION AND VERIFICATION
We are required to follow client identification and verification procedures when retained by a client to provide legal services. Accordingly, before we begin work on your behalf, we will require information from you concerning your identity. In addition, for some transactional work, we will require information to verify your identity (to confirm who you are) before the transaction occurs.
TERMINATION OF SERVICES
You may terminate our services for any reason at any time. If you decide to do so, you must notify us immediately of your decision verbally and in writing. This decision does not affect your obligation to pay for legal services and expenses incurred up to the time of termination.
In some circumstances, we may find it necessary to withdraw from your representation. You will be given prompt notice of that fact. In making such a decision, we must abide by the Professional Conduct Handbook published by the Law Society of British Columbia which applies to all lawyers in British Columbia. The Professional Conduct Handbook allows us to withdraw as your lawyer in some circumstances and requires us to withdraw in others. Circumstances in which we may withdraw include: failure by the client to pay for our fees and/or costs; misrepresentation or failure by the client to fully inform the lawyer regarding material facts; conduct by the client that is inconsistent with the lawyer’s advice; and conflict of interest with other clients.
FILE RETENTION POLICY
At the conclusion of your matters, you will have the opportunity to retain your files if you so wish. If you do not wish to personally retain your files, we will retain them for seven years upon the conclusion of your matters. If you do not request the return of your files in writing before the end of that seven-year period, upon the expiration of the period we will have no further obligation to retain the files and may, in our discretion, destroy the files without further notice to you. If you wish us to retain your files beyond seven years, we may charge you for the cost of continued storage. We reserve the right to store your files electronically and to destroy any hard copies or to retain hard copies offsite with third party providers. If you give us instructions that require that we retrieve files stored offsite you may be charged for any costs we incur in doing so.
While commonplace in the practice of law, communicating by Internet e-mail requires the acceptance of certain risks, including (but without limitation) the lack of security, unreliability of delivery and possible loss of confidentiality and privilege. Unless you request in writing that we not communicate by Internet e-mail you assume all responsibility or liability in respect of those risks.
These Standard Terms of Representation and any accompanying engagement or retainer letter (including, Exhibits), constitute the entire agreement between you and us with respect to the engagement and supersede all other oral and written representation, understandings or agreements relating to the engagement.
It is important to us that we know how our clients feel about the services provided. If you ever feel that we are not living up to our commitment or to your expectation of prompt, cost-effective, high-quality legal representation, please let us know.
We sincerely appreciate your trust, confidence and respect in selecting Norton Stewart. We will do our very best to provide you with the quality of service and personal attention upon which we have built our professional reputation.
*An Association of Lawyers and Law Corporations