Retainers and Fees Toolkit: Complying with Ethical Obligations

Couple talking to lawyer about document

Retainers and Fees Toolkit

Complying with Ethical

Prepared by Katrina Haymond and Kimberly Precht for the Ethics and Professional Responsibility SubCommittee

The Purpose of the Toolkit

While few lawyers would dispute the importance of engaging in effective communication with clients and potential clients, lawyers are often ill-equipped or reluctant to engage in discussions with clients and potential clients about the financial side of the relationship. Some lawyers find discussions about money to be inconsistent with more exalted ideas of what it means to be a lawyer. Others lack confidence and believe a prospective client may not want to hire them if financial aspects of the relationship are discussed in great detail. And sometimes, lawyers simply do not have the skills or experience to engage in discussions about financial matters.1

This Toolkit is intended to provide lawyers in private practice with commentary, resources and best practices with respect to the financial aspects of retainers, and to highlight some of the ethical obligations that arise with respect to retainers and fees.

The references to rules throughout this document are to the Federation of Law Societies of Canada’s Model Code of Professional Conduct (“Model Code”). When reviewing this document and suggested resources, lawyers should remember their ethical and legal obligations are governed by the code of professional conduct, law society rules and regulations, and applicable laws in their jurisdiction (references in this document to Model Code rules are hyperlinked to its interactive version that includes reference to equivalent rules for the different jurisdictions).

Wherever possible, the resources listed in the “Learn more” sections are hyperlinked for ease of access. Although these links were current at the time of publication in May 2022, online resources will inevitably be updated, replaced, moved or dropped over time. With respect to resources made available by or through law societies, users should check with their law society for the most up to date resources.2

End Notes

1 S. Dyson, Budgeting and Negotiating Fees with Clients: A Lawyer’s Guide (Peoria, IL, Ark Group, 2011) at p. 55-58

2 At the time of writing, the Law Society of British Columbia Communication Toolkit and Practice Management Course were publicly accessible and are cited and hyperlinked throughout this Toolkit. However, we are advised these resources will only be available to members of the Law Society of British Columbia in the near future.