Lawyer Consultation in Ontario: What To Expect and How to Prepareachkarlaw-admin
In light of the increasing number of employment and human rights law issues arising from the pandemic, it’s important to have a clear understanding of how legal consultations work in Ontario and how to prepare for them. This knowledge can help you approach seeking legal advice with confidence and without feeling overwhelmed.
If you decide to proceed and hire the legal professional, you will be presented with a retainer agreement. This agreement serves as a formal document outlining the key terms of your solicitor-client relationship and detailing what you can expect during the course of your legal representation.
What Happens During a Lawyer Consultation in Ontario
A consultation is not an occasion to resolve your legal issue, but to see how the legal professional can help resolve the matter. To do that, they need to know as much as they can about your particular legal problem.
A large part of the consultation is fact-gathering regarding your matter. The best way a legal professional can help you is to have a clear picture of all the relevant facts and evidence, to ensure they do not miss any issues.
While a lot of context can be gleaned through your own explanation of what occurred, documents are also helpful for your legal professional to review. You will be asked for further details on what exactly happened.
After gathering the relevant facts and reviewing any relevant documents, the legal professional can assess your matter, the options available to you, and the likelihood of success for your matter. If there are key facts and documents missing, this may effect the legal professional’s ability to provide an accurate assessment. Similarly, if new facts and evidence arise at a later time, this may change their initial assessment.
The legal professional can then present you with options in how to proceed with your matter, as well as information as to what to expect for the options available to you.
You will also be provided with an overview what costs to expect for the legal services provided.
In brief, the main elements of the consolation should include:
- Facts: your explanation of what happened, including answering any questions the legal professional has to get a clear picture of your matter;
- Evidence: the documents you bring to review, as well as any documented dates, times, and particulars of relevant events;
- Assessment: based on all the relevant facts and documents, the legal professional can determine the strength of your case and any weaknesses;
- Options and Information: if the legal professional can help with your matter, they will provide you with options in how you can move your matter forward to a resolution. They will also provide you with information as to what is likely to occur, how long you can expect steps to take, and what factors may affect your matter; and
- Costs: the fees that will be incurred by representing you. The lawyer will explain the associated fees with the matter, such as which fee arrangement is available for your matter, as well as the disbursements (out-of-pocket fees) you will be responsible for.
Finding the Right Legal Professional
Individuals may search for the right firm or legal professional to represent them by searching online, browsing a directory, or asking individuals within their network to refer them to someone that can assist them.
When determining who to book a consultation with, keep in mind the practice areas of the firm or legal professional, to ensure they have knowledge and experience with matters similar to yours.
After determining which firm or legal professional may work best for your issue, you will typically be able to book a consultation by contacting them either by phone or filling out a consultation form on their website.
While some consultations are free of charge, some are not. It is always best to check with the firm in advance so that you are fully aware of any consultation fees. While “free” can be tempting to many individuals, be careful that the legal professional is not providing you with a legal opinion without properly assessing your facts or evidence—this may cost you more in the long run.
Anything discussed during the legal consultation in Ontario is protected by solicitor-client privilege, which means that all discussions and information is kept confidential, and cannot be shared with any third party.
Solicitor-client privilege aims to ensure that clients, even potential clients, are completely honest about the details of their case, so that an accurate assessment can be provided. Without knowing all the facts, any strategy might be challenged by unpleasant surprises down the road. That’s why it is best to prepare knowing all the facts and having a full picture, to know exactly what to anticipate and how to properly respond to any challenges from the opposing side.
Individuals should keep in mind that while they are protected by solicitor-client privilege during a consultation, they are not considered a client until they retain the legal professional—this requires signing the retainer and providing any corresponding funds.
Preparing For The Legal Consultation in Ontario
Effective preparation for a legal consultation can go a long way in making the consultation more thorough and beneficial to both parties. This can help clarity of the legal issues involving your matter, as well as the accuracy of the legal professional’s assessment of your matter.
Some examples of evidence that should typically be brought to an employment law consultation include:
- Your employment agreement;
- Any relevant policy;
- Your termination letter;
- Any warning letters;
- Any relevant medical records;
- Your T4 and paystubs;
- Your record of employment; and
- Any relevant correspondence such as emails, texts, and letters.
If you have any particular question(s) about your matter, you can have those prepared for your consultation so you do not forget. While the legal professional cannot resolve your matter during the consultation, they can provide you with information as to what you can expect as your matter progresses, and how they can help you reach a resolution.