Lawyer client relationships sometimes go off the rails and a dispute may arise about an unpaid account. The remedy is taxation of the account before a registrar of the Supreme Court and both the client and the lawyer have the right to have the matter determined in that manner pursuant to the Legal Professions act.
Master Taylor sitting as a registrar allowed an unpaid family lawyer’s account in full for $25,356 after reciting many pages of letters between the lawyer and the client that clearly demonstrated a severely strained relationship, and a client who would not follow advice.
The lawyer had the client sign a retainer agreement that provided for such possible lawyer client problems and the procedure for resolving them which the court found useful in determining the proper account for services rendered under the circumstances.
I recommend reading Lindsay Kenney LLP v Yehia 2016 BCSC 2121 for an inside look into how lawyers on occasion have to deal with clients who the court found to be ” one of the most difficult clients a lawyer could possibly have.”
That case was a heated matrimonial proceeding but estate litigation files certainly have the tendency to also become extremely emotional to the expense of common sense and reason.
Lawyers invariably give good advice to their clients and when the clients fail to follow the advice, it usually costs the client dearly as it did with Mr. Yehia.
The court set out the Provisions of S 71 Legal Professions Act governing the taxation of lawyers accounts:
Matters to be considered by the registrar on a review
71 (1) This section applies to a review or examination under section 68 (7), 70,77 (3),
78 (2) or 79 (3).
(2) Subject to subsections (4) and (5), the registrar must allow fees, charges and disbursements for the following services:
(a) those reasonably necessary and proper to conduct the proceeding or business to which they relate;
(b) those authorized by the client or subsequently approved by the client, whether or not the services were reasonably necessary and proper to conduct the proceeding or business to which they relate.
(3) Subject to subsections (4) and (5), the registrar may allow fees, charges and disbursements for the following services, even if unnecessary for the proper conduct of the proceeding or business to which they relate:
(a) those reasonably intended by the lawyer to advance the interests of the client at the time the services were provided;
(b) those requested by the client after being informed by the lawyer that they were unnecessary and not likely to advance the interests of the client.
(4) At a review of a lawyer’s bill, the registrar must consider all of the circumstances, including
(a) the complexity, difficulty or novelty of the issues involved,
(b) the skill, specialized knowledge and responsibility required of the lawyer,
(c) the lawyer’s character and standing in the profession,
(d) the amount involved,
(e) the time reasonably spent,
(f) if there has been an agreement that sets a fee rate that is based on an amount per unit of time spent by the lawyer, whether the rate was reasonable,
(g) the importance of the matter to the client whose bill is being reviewed, and
(h) the result obtained.
(5) The discretion of the registrar under subsection (4) is not limited by the terms of an agreement between the lawyer and the lawyer’s client.