Initial Consult FAQ

Initial Consult FAQ

Is an initial consultation free or does it have a fee?
We offer free 30-minute consultations for all legal matters. During the free consultation, the lawyer you meet with will discuss how fees are charged and what type of a retainer will be required in order for us to act for you in your legal matter.
What can I expect during my initial consultation?
Generally, the consultation starts with you and the lawyer discussing the facts, background, and court history (if any) of your case. The lawyer will then provide you with preliminary advice regarding your legal options and the legal process that will apply to your situation. Finally, the lawyer will discuss whether this is a case that we can assist you with, and explain what our representation will involve and our fee structure.
What are your hourly rates?
The hourly rate depends on the experience of the person doing work on your file. Hourly rates for lawyers range from $150-400 per hour. For paralegals and assistants, it is between $90-125 per hour, and for students we charge $90 per hour.

The hourly rates for each lawyer and staff member are set out in the retainer agreement that you will need to review and sign before we start acting for you.

When you receive a statement of account, it sets out the time that each person spent working on your case, a detailed description of the work performed on your case, the date the work was completed, and the total cost for that work.

Statements of account are useful for you to determine whether you are receiving adequate value for your money. We strive to provide our clients with excellent value per dollar spent. We encourage you to contact our office if you have any questions or concerns about your statement of account, and we never charge you for time spent discussing fees.

What am I going to pay for my matter?

The short answer is that the total cost to represent you will be based on the number of hours it takes to complete your case, charged at the hourly rate. How many hours it takes to complete your case depends on a number of factors, such as the type of case, the complexity of the issues, and most importantly, what you and the other side do.

In family law for, instance, the cost can be as little as a few hundred dollars if we are simply reviewing a separation agreement with you and providing independent legal advice. On the other hand, if you have a case that proceeds to court and involves numerous applications, discoveries, legal research and a lengthy trial, it can cost in the tens of thousands of dollars.

We will provide you with estimates for services as your case progresses, depending on what you instruct us to do and in order to respond to anything that the other side does.

It is very difficult to predict the cost of a case at the outset, since we do not know whether your case will resolve quickly or whether it will take a long time to complete. While some things are within your control, and we will discuss ways that you can reduce your costs, we do not know whether the other side will do. They may file a lot of applications which will require us to respond on your behalf, driving up the costs to both sides.

Do you charge flat fees?
There are certain types of work that we do, such as preparing a basic will or acting for a client on a real estate purchase or sale, where we can agree to complete work a flat fee. We will discuss with you what work the flat fee covers and this will be set out in the retainer agreement that you will need to sign before we can start work on your behalf.
Can I be on contingency fee retainer?

In certain types of personal injury cases, we will act for you on a contingency fee basis. This means that you pay us a percentage of what you receive from the other side at the end of the case. We do not act for clients on a contingency fee basis in any other type of case besides personal injury.

Please understand that it is not every case where will agree to act on a contingency basis. We decide on a case-by-case basis considering factors such as the likelihood of success, the value of the claim, and your financial circumstances.

You should also think hard about whether you want a lawyer to act on a contingency basis. If you have the means to fund your case, and it is a strong case, then you will probably be better off paying a lawyer on an hourly basis, since you will keep everything you recover at the end of your case.

Will I be successful? What are the odds? Likely outcome?

We will strive to provide you with honest and accurate advice about the strength of your case at all stages. The accuracy of our opinion will improve as we complete work on your case and become familiar with the evidence on your side and the other side.

It is important to remember that all legal actions are subject to many possible variables such as the demeanor and recollection of witnesses, the availability of substantiating documents and other evidence, and the evidence marshalled by the other side—all of which affect the decision of a judge or jury.

There are things you can do to help increase your chances of success in litigation, such as locating and providing your lawyer with helpful evidence and instructions. We will discuss with you what you and us can to maximize your chances of success.

We can never guarantee any particular result in a case. Even where a certain outcome may be very likely, it is by no means certain. You should stay far away from any lawyer that promises or guarantees an outcome. They are telling you what you want to hear and not telling you the truth.

Which lawyer is more experienced?

Experience can be measured in two ways. First there is general experience, which comes from how many years a lawyer has been practicing. The longer a lawyer has been practicing, the more cases they will have handled, the more they will have built up their reputation in the legal community, and the more their general skills will benefit your case.

Second is area-specific experience, which comes from how many similar cases a lawyer has handled. For instance, a lawyer who has been practicing for two years exclusively in the area of real estate law will likely have more “experience” to bring to bear on the purchase of a house than a lawyer who has been practicing for ten years primarily in the area of criminal defence.

Accordingly, the experience of a lawyer on any given case will depend on how long they have been practicing and how many similar cases they have handled. It is important to remember that the more experienced a lawyer is, the higher is or her hourly rate is likely to be. While there can be a cost savings with an experienced lawyer, because they may be able to complete certain tasks faster than junior lawyer, this is not always the case.

We strive to provide value to clients by having junior lawyers and paralegals assist more experienced lawyers with work on files where there would be no additional value to having the more experienced lawyer do that work. In this way, you get the advantage of having an experienced lawyer when it’s of most benefit to you, but the cost savings when it’s not necessary.

When you contact us, our staff will ask you questions about your case to determine the lawyer experienced in that area who can best assist you in your initial consultation.

Which other ways can my problem/dispute be handled (rather than litigation/going to court)?

A negotiated outcome is almost always preferable to going to court. That is because (1) it is much less expensive and (2) there is certainty over the outcome. When you go to court, you present your case but the final decision is out of your hands.

When you come to an agreement, you know exactly what the outcome will be because its set out clearly in the agreement.

There are many ways that a case can be resolved outside of court. First of all, at any stage of proceedings prior to a trial, either side may make a “settlement offer.” This means that they send a letter, often marked “without prejudice” (which means that the other side can’t use it in court), setting out the terms of an offer. If the receiving side decides to accept the offer, the case is over on those terms.

Often there are lots of offers and counter-offers until an agreement is reached, and many cases resolve in this manner.

Second, the parties can engage in a formal mediation. This involves hiring a mediator to act as a neutral third-party. The mediator will then speak with both sides and help them try to come to an agreement. This is not always successful, but the mediator will generally try their best to push parties to put aside their differences and come to an agreement they can all live with.

Third, there are things like Settlement Conferences and Judicial Case Conferences in family and civil cases where a judge sits down with the parties and tries to help them achieve agreement. Their role is much like a mediator, and they may offer opinions on the strength of each party’s claims in order to help them move towards settlement.

What is a conflict of interest?

There are two types of conflict of interest for lawyers.

The first is when the lawyer or a law firm has a personal interest in a matter that may be different from the client’s interest. A good example would be that a client wants to buy a business that the lawyer is a part-owner of. That lawyer could not act for the client on the purchase, since the lawyer has a personal interest in the outcome.

The second, and more common type of conflict of interest, is when a lawyer has represented or obtained confidential information from more than one party in a case. For instance, if a lawyer meets with a wife contemplating divorce, who provides the lawyer with confidential information during the course of the meeting, the lawyer cannot then act for the husband. Law firms, including Cote & Evans Trial Lawyers, screen for potential conflict of interest by asking the names of the parties involved in a case and checking against our database to make sure that we haven’t acted for the other party or received confidential information from them.

Do I even need a lawyer?

There is an old joke that, “A person who acts as their own lawyer has a fool for a client.” Like many jokes, there is some truth to it. Without legal advice, you run a number of risks, including many that you will not even be aware of.

That being said, there is no obligation for you to hire a lawyer. There are resources available to assist people who do not have lawyers. The main advantage in not hiring a lawyer is the cost savings.

We strongly recommend that you at least consult with a lawyer so that you fully understand your rights and obligations, and discuss with the lawyer how they will be able to assist on the case going forward. You can then make an informed decision about whether the cost of a lawyer is worth it.

Like anything else, whether hiring a lawyer makes sense in your case will depend on things like (1) your proficiency and experience, (2) the complexity of the issues, (3) the amount of money or consequences involved. (4) the cost of a lawyer, (5) whether you want to do it all yourself or have help.

For instance, if you have no driving record, it may not make sense to pay a lawyer to a fight a $100 traffic ticket. On the other hand, if you’re charged with trafficking drugs, you likely have a complex case where the consequences of conviction (years of jail) are catastrophic and you would be ill-advised to represent yourself.

Why am I required to produce a government issue ID at my initial consultation?

The Law Society of British Columbia (the organization responsible for regulating the practice of law in BC) requires lawyers to verify their clients’ identities, and for certain types of transactions or services. You can read more about the reasons for this and the requirements at:

You can be assured that your identification, like the rest of your consultation, is completely confidential and will not be shared with anyone else.

What is a “limited retainer”?

Colloquially known as “unbundling,” the limited retainer involves splitting the usual package of work involved in a matter into discrete tasks. The client retains the lawyer to perform only some of these tasks, and maintains responsibility for the remainder.

For instance, in a family case, a client may retain a lawyer to prepare certain legal documents (e.g. an Affidavit or Financial Statement), but the client will be responsible for attending court and taking all other steps in the case.

If you are interested in a limited retainer, it is very important that you discuss with your lawyer exactly what the lawyer will be doing, and perhaps more importantly, what the lawyer will not be doing.


Why do you need my address on file and email?
While we will strive to communicate with you in the manner you desire – e.g. telephone, email – there may be situations where we cannot reach you through your desired method and it is essential to your legal interests that we contact you another way. One of the worst things for a lawyer (and client) is when the lawyer cannot reach the client to take instructions on a time sensitive matter.


11 + 9 =