Once I have agreed to work with a client, we will review their file in detail. This includes determining whether the legal complaint is part of a larger legal set of issues that require consideration.
When we have completed the file review, we can then do any or all of the following:
- Help our client to understand more fully any legal malpractice claim they might have against lawyers so they can decide whether or not they wish to pursue the claim
- Commence legal proceedings against lawyers
- Make a complaint to the Law Society about the conduct of lawyers where this is merited and the client instructs us to do so
- Pursue other claims against third parties where this might be of assistance to the client
- Legal advice
- General legal work
We have over thirty years of experience and skills in a number of areas, including:
- Insolvency including foreclosures and receivership
- Real estate including residential, commercial, lending and leasing
- Securities law including founding of public companies and the issues that come with shareholder disputes
- Basic tax law
- Matrimonial disputes that spill over into corporate, tax and insolvency issues;
- Settling multi-party issues
I will work with lawyers who have a legal malpractice claim being brought against them by providing them with independent legal advice, which their insurer’s lawyer cannot give them. I will also work with lawyers on behalf of a client of theirs that has a potential claim against another lawyer.
Our services for lawyers include:
- Dealing with conflicts
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A. Cases against lawyers for other litigants rarely, if ever, succeed. Normally, your best remedy is to have a competent and honest lawyer working for you who can see to it that your best case is put forward. If you and your lawyer reach the conclusion that opposing counsel has crossed the “ethical line” then you can consider filing a complaint with the law society in your province. I caution that my experience with law society complaints is that they rarely yield a result that gives complainents the satisfaction they are seeking. Lawyers rarely apologize. (In fact, it appears that Law Society Insurers discourage lawyers from admitting they did anything wrong for fear that the admission will assist the client in bringing a legal malpractice claim against the lawyer.) Law Societies seem to be overburdened with complaints which tend to proceed very slowly. The complaint process can be very stressful for the complainent.
A. I do not ordinarily get involved in fee disputes unless I agree to assume the file from another lawyer, in which case I may have occasion to provide advice on the previous lawyer’s bill.
Sometimes lawyers charge too much but often the problem is one of communication – lawyers do work that the client doesn’t understand, or lawyers sometimes do work without clearly understanding the client’s instructions. My first suggestion is to make an appointment with the lawyer in order to see if a resolution can be worked out.
Many lawyers will reduce their bill after they talk with the client.
If things can’t be worked out, then in Alberta we have a process whereby a lawyer’s account can be reviewed by a taxing officer who has the power to review the account and determine whether it is reasonable. If you go to www.albertacourts.ab.ca and then click on Court Services, you can see how to tax a lawyer’s account in Alberta.
A. This is a tough question. Until the last couple of years I would have told you to go to your law society’s insurer and put in a claim. I used to believe that mandatory insurance for lawyers was there to protect the public and that a valid claim would be dealt with in good faith. However, in the last two years the Law Society insurer in Alberta, where I live and practice, has put it on the record that they do not believe they have to act in good faith in their dealings with clients of lawyers in this province.
A word of caution. All provinces have limitation periods which limit the time in which you can commence an action against your lawyer. In my experience, law society insurers will defend actions based on a limitations defence. Therefore, even if you decide to make the claim yourself be sure to know what the limitation date for commencement of your claim is. You may find that the Law Society insurer stops talking to you the day after the limitation period expires.
A. I do not know very much about criminal law. If you first get the opinion from a lawyer who practices criminal law that your previous lawyer made mistakes which have caused you damage, then I suggest you have that lawyer contact me so that we can discuss whether you have a claim. A word of caution: a claim against a lawyer in a criminal law matter is a very difficult claim to prosecute.
A. The short answer to this is ‘Yes’. Under the right factual circumstances a lawyer can have fiduciary obligations to a party who is not that lawyer’s client. Examples of this are found in situations where a lawyer is given money on a transaction where the person giving the money does not have a lawyer but expects the lawyer to do certain things before releasing the money to a third party. If the lawyer doesn’t do what is reasonably expected they may be liable for the non-client’s loss. Liability in cases like these is very fact driven as generally a lawyer does not have liability to parties who are not his clients.
A. Missed limitation periods are one of the most common claims against lawyers. Once a lawyer misses a limitation period she is ethically bound to stop acting for you because she cannot give you independent advice when she knows you have a claim against her.
You should get an independent lawyer to look at your claim immediately to determine whether your first lawyer has made a mistake that will cause you damage. Canadian limitation legislation sets strict deadlines for the commencement of legal actions. If you miss the deadline, it is often the case that your claim cannot be pursued. If you retained the lawyer before the limitation period had passed, then you may have a claim against the lawyer for the value of your law suit.
A. When you call me to discuss your case you are calling a lawyer. Communication between a lawyer and a person seeking legal advice about litigation or potential litigation is privileged and confidential. I cannot disclose that information to anyone else without your consent.
A. Not necessarily. Your lawyer may have been negligent but you will not recover damages if your original claim was no good.
For example, a lawyer is totally negligent if he does not file your statement of claim relating to your motor vehicle claim in time. However, if your case is no good because, for instance, the accident was your fault then although the lawyer was negligent he may not have to pay you any damages. Generally, the courts do not give clients much in the way of damages for a lawyer’s negligence if that negligence caused the client no harm.