How much should a lawyer cost you?
Every year, Canadian Lawyer Magazine releases its legal fee survey. The survey’s accuracy is subject to some question since it depends on the voluntary participation of lawyers cross country. With a relatively small sample size of almost 600, a regional concentration or a cluster of results in the low or high end of the fee schedule can distort the results. Nevertheless, the survey does provide some broad guidelines on how much you should be paying for a lawyer.
If you are an average employed Canadian, the most likely reasons to see a lawyer are: (i) draft a will; and (ii) sell or purchase a home; and (iii) documenting a divorce. For the middle transaction, a simple sale of a house costs on average $827 (the $827 average does not include the cost of title insurance, taxes and disbursements). A purchase and sale will, on average, run a typical Canadian almost $1,300 based on the survey results.
Lawyers charge on average $344 for a “simple” will (one presumes a simple will is all to spouse and then all to kids in the event spouse pre-deceases the testator) and $156 for a power of attorney. It is not clear whether this is for one power of attorney or $156 for each of power of attorney for personal care and power of attorney for property. Assuming it is $156 for each power of attorney, estate planning would cost approximately $650.00 before taxes.
However, in the age of multiple marriages, kids from different relationships, deceased with assets in other jurisdictions, testators which are deeply in debt, support obligations to elderly parents or grown children is there such a thing as a simple will anymore? I will post on this in a future post but wills and estate planning are become less than simple as the family unit evolves.
Under the heading of “only the lawyers get rich”, lawyers charge on average $1,200 for an uncontested divorce and over $12,000 for a contested divorce including a high of over $50,000; the high fees for a contested divorce probably arises from child custody disputes/arrangements. It is for this reason that the family bar has begun to move towards collaborative family law. It is definitely an option worth exploring if you are contemplating or are in the middle of a separation.
Obviously, you get what you pay for in life so use the survey results only as a broad guide. On a more practical level, do try to actually engage in a conversation with a lawyer rather than starting out with “how much does it cost?”
All law is contextual so even if you do not like the price quote, a conversation or consultation will at least flesh out some issues you may not have been aware of. A good analogy would be you would not hire a contractor to renovate the kitchen without having them actually look at it first.
If you do not know how to find a lawyer, call your local law society. Most have referral services. The Law Society of Upper Canada, which regulates lawyers in Ontario, has finally made their lawyer referral service free after charging a modest fee for years.