The Law Society does not have jurisdiction to address complaints or disputes between you and your lawyer regarding the amount of their fees.
If you don’t understand some of the items on your lawyer’s account or if you disagree with the amount, talk it over with your lawyer. Go over the details and ask the lawyer to explain why a particular charge was made. Remember that, other than under contingency fee arrangements, lawyers are entitled to charge fees and disbursements based on the work done on your behalf, regardless of whether you are satisfied with the ultimate outcome.
If you and your lawyer cannot resolve your disagreement, there is a procedure known as Assessment (formerly referred to as “Taxation”, or “taxing a lawyer’s account”), where the lawyer’s accounts are reviewed by the registrar of the Court of Queen’s Bench.
The registrar will review the file and the work done by the lawyer and will hear from both the lawyer and the client in an Assessment Hearing to decide if the work done justifies the fees charged. This process may result in an order directing the lawyer to reduce an account and, if the client has already paid the account, to reimburse the client the amount of the reduction. Your lawyer may be prepared to consent to have the account assessed at your request. If not, you may apply to the court for an assessment. The application for an assessment must be made within 30 days of receipt of the account. However, application can be granted at a later date if the court is satisfied that special circumstances exist.
A contingency fee agreement is an agreement which provides that a lawyer’s payment for services provided to their client depends on whether the client is successful in their legal action. The fee will depend on the outcome of the case and is generally calculated as a percentage of the value of the award or settlement received by the client. The terms of a contingency fee agreement must be reasonable and must be set out in a written agreement signed by both the lawyer and the client.
Where a lawyer and client have signed a contract such as a contingency fee agreement, the client may apply to the Court to challenge the reasonableness of a contingency fee agreement as set out in Section 64 of The Legal Profession Act, 1990. You may wish to consult a lawyer for further advice.