Assess the Client’s Ability to Pay Your Fees

Section 3.6-1 provides that a lawyer must not charge or accept fees unless they are fair and reasonable and have been disclosed in a timely fashion.

Reasonable Fees and Disbursements

3.6-1 A lawyer must not charge or accept a fee or disbursement, including interest, unless it is fair and reasonable and has been disclosed in a timely fashion.

The best time to disclose information about fees is right at the beginning. To avoid frustration down the line, it is important to assess whether a potential client is able to pay your fees. While screening a potential client, make sure you take time to discuss your fee, billing processes, and acceptable methods of payment with the client. Let them know what they can expect from you in terms of when, how, and how much you will bill them and what you will expect from them with respect to how and how often they will need to pay you.

This conversation is an imperative part of setting expectations. While it may seem callous to bring up finances and money in the same conversation a potential client shares personal information, being candid about your legal fees will help both you and the potential client determine whether the legal relationship is a good fit for each party.

If you are upfront with the client about your fees, billing processes and agree on an acceptable method and timing of payment, the client can better assess whether they want you to work for them. Having this conversation can also help prevent issues later if the client decides they do not want to pay you.

Candid discussions about your fees in the beginning can also help you determine whether your client is comfortable with your rate, and whether alternative billing methods need to be taken into consideration. Instead of billing hourly, you may perhaps consider flat fees, payment plans, or depending on the type of file, working on a contingency basis.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding what fees are reasonable, or whether using alternative payment structures is appropriate, please refer to section 3.6 of the Code or reach out to the Law Society of Saskatchewan.