The Going Rate
I came across a 2010 legal fees survey conducted by Canadian Lawyer's Magazine (see here). I found it quite fascinating to go through, and wondered if it might be a useful resource when meeting with clients - especially when they are asking for estimates or quotes for various legal services.I was a little surprised to see the fee ranges for some legal services. For example, a civil action trial (2 days) runs from $18,185 to $62,843 (avg $26,444). I noticed that fees for small firms (1-4 lawyers) were often lower. For some services fees were higher in the Western region than in Ontario, but the opposite for other services. I wonder why?I was also quite impressed to see that our firm's rates were on par with average fees across the board. That's pretty amazing since we kind of came up with them on our own. However, we do try to base fees on the actual work involved in the service.
Read about re-qualifying as a lawyer in Canada here (Lawyer's Weekly).
Law School in Canada vs. USA
The McGill TribuneBy Elisa Muyl"For students who have had their hearts set on going to law school since childhood, David Segal's recent New York Times article, "Is Law School a Losing Game?" offered a familiar but oft-ignored warning: law school is difficult and expensive; proceed with caution. In his article, chronicling the overwhelming debt and the unforgiving job market faced by an estimated 44,000 hopeful American JDs each year, Segal argues that the decision to pursue a legal degree should not be taken lightly, since, contrary to the statistics being published by the schools themselves, it's an investment that doesn't necessarily offer great returns..." read more here.
LU Law School coming soon
A proposed law program at Lakehead University is being recommended by an approval committee for law programs in Canada. Read more here.
Expansion is good, but it hurts
So, my little start-up law firm is now three lawyers strong (myself and two associates), as well as various staff. We focus on family law, real estate, wills and estates, corporate law, but also on more esoteric areas such as aboriginal treaty rights, residential school stuff, and water law. It's been a lot of fun adding staff, desks, computers, etc. over the past few months. We're excited at the prospects, even with the current downturn in the economy. There is a lot of potential out there, but it will take some enginuity and diligence to have real staying power. I have found that customer service is the absolute most important thing towards building a successful legal practice. No advertising, networking, google adwording, schmoozing, brown-nosing, volunteer service, or other thing compares to having a happy and satisfied customer who will come back to you later on, or better yet, will refer a friend to you. A very large part of my personal practice is based on this concept. It creates a very loyal client base, and makes it much easier to keep a steady work-flow, and to keep the stress down.
Business is booming for legal clinic
Posted at The Whig By MIKE NORRIS MNORRIS@THEWHIG.COM"Fledgling entrepreneurs and some Queen's University law students can agree on one thing:Business is booming in Kingston.The newly established Queen's Business Law Clinic provides legal advice -- free of charge -- to small, start-up and not-for-profit businesses in the city. A four-month pilot project last winter was so successful, the clinic will now be a year-round operation.'The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in Kingston,' said Professor Peter Kissick, director of the law clinic.'I was surprised by how sophisticated the files are, from software to carpentry businesses. There's a wide variety of things going on.'"Read the whole article here.These kinds of clinics are essential, not only for access to justice, but also access to legal information for those who cannot afford a retainer for a lawyer, or who are just starting to do the legwork for their start-up business, or a legal transaction or action. Good stuff! Congratulations on your success so far law clinic law students! We appreciate you.
Top Five Canadian Law Schools Rank Same as 2008
Maclean's put out their 2009 Canadian Law School Ranking in September. No changes in the Top 5. Also, very little changes in 12 to 16.1. Toronto (1)2. McGill (2)3. Osgoode (3)4. UBC (4)5. Victoria (5)6. Queen's (8)7. Dalhousie (6)8. Ottawa (7)9. Alberta (9)10. Western (12)11. Calgary (10)12. Saskatchewan (12)13. Manitoba (10)13. New Brunswick (12)15. Windsor (15)16. Moncton (16)I don't put a ton of stock in Maclean's ranking, but it is interesting to see the consistency from year to year. Victoria used to be much higher. I am surprised to see UBC so high the last two years, as it didn't use to rank that high. Calgary keeps dipping. Alberta should be ranked higher, especially given all the money that has been thrown at it lately.
Law school alumnus gives back to university
"Frank MacInnis said he experienced a 'brief moment of terror' when his former law professor summoned him to the podium Friday, a startling admission from a man who now presides over a U. S.-based Fortune 500 company.'Old habits die hard,' MacInnis told a laughing audience at the University of Alberta, recalling his friendly, yet sometimes adversarial relationship with former law dean David Percy.Of course, there was no reason for argument Friday, when MacInnis and his wife were honoured for a $2.5-million donation to Percy's faculty-- the largest single gift the U of A law school has ever received."That is a very nice donation from a very nice, and obviously successful alumnus. Thank you Mr. and Mrs. MacInnis!
Think twice about going to law school - firm chairman says
Financial PostPosted: September 25, 2009, 11:26 AM by Mitch KowalskiPractice Management, Legal News, Mitch Kowalski, Associates, Law schools"Every time a friend of mine tells me that her daughter or son is contemplating law school I try to dissuade them. This isn't the 60's - when a law degree was a ticket to the good life. The profession is a brutally difficult way to earn a living for either gender. And it ain't getting better.Now it seems I have some support for my comments. Peter Kalis, chairman of large, international firm K & L Gates, was interviewd by the Wall Street Journal and said much the same thing. Kalis says that schools are "pouring tens of thousands of young people into a market that I suspect is not going to be able to absorb them at the remuneration levels that would have justified them taking on. . ."I would like to read more...but they make you register. I hate this form of news where I am forced to pay to read something that I should be able to read for free online. I mean, I shouldn't have to have a subscription just to read an article...In any case, the comment is a fair one, and is one that more young aspiring law students should think about. Or, as the writer indicates, a thought that more parents of aspiring law students should think about.
Silverberg realizes long-held dream
Former police chief relishing career as lawyerRead this great little article about the former Calgary Chief of Police. She attended law school in Calgary with a friend of mine. It's neat to see where she ended up. I think it's pretty impressive. She works now with Willy deWit (former boxer) and the lawyer who recently won the David Milgaard wrongful conviction case. I was also impressed to see that she became a partner in a national law firm four years after finishing law school.
Law school at Thompson Rivers University
By Melissa Lampman - Kamloops This Week Published: February 17, 2009 5:00 PM A plan to launch a law school at Thompson Rivers University is yet another step in making it the most comprehensive post-secondary institution in the nation. In the Speech from the Throne on Monday, the province announced the creation of the new law school — one of three in B.C. — slated to open by 2011. The plan is to have a three-year, fully accredited bachelor of law program accepting a minimum of 40 students per year with a focus on social, cultural and economic realities of Canadian rural settings. 'Isn’t this great? Now the work really begins,' said TRU president Kathleen Scherf of the next couple of years of intense planning to make the school a reality."Isn't what great? Another law school in a market that is full of job losses and downsizing? Good timing! I don't think this is a good idea. Even if it does happen, it shouldn't happen for another decade or more - until there is an actual demand.
Phony degrees put Osgoode law school on high alert
By Macleans.ca | January 5th, 2009 | 2:04 pm Related ContentDecember 3, 2008 -- Final update from Osgoode studentsNovember 27, 2008 -- Classes resume at York’s Osgoode law school January 19, 2009 -- Tough economy sees record number of university applicants in Ont. Filed Under: News • Top Stories Tags: admissions • internet • Osgoode • Osgoode Law School "Will implement tougher 'verification measures' to help detect admissions fraud The Toronto Star is reporting that Osgoode Hall Law School will tighten admissions procedures following revelations that a third-year student used a phony degree to enter the York University law program. The school’s dean, Patrick Monahan, says admissions integrity is of utmost importance and they are “investigating additional verification measures that could be put in place to detect cases of fraud in the admission process.” When even one student gets admitted improperly, he says, it hurts the admissions chances of another student in addition to damaging Osgoode’s reputation. The Star says student Quami Frederick was found to have used a degree purchased from an Internet diploma mill to get accepted into the law program in 2006. More recently, Frederick submitted photocopies of transcripts in which her Osgoode Hall marks were inflated when she successfully applied for an articling job at the Bay St. law firm Wildeboer Dellelce, LLP. Frederick, 28, now faces an Osgoode Hall disciplinary hearing that could lead to expulsion. The law firm has withdrawn its job offer."Stupid. Just plain stupid!
Soldier does battle in courtroom
January 21, 2009 - by Matt Driscoll "Jason Morische is a true man of action.When he isn’t busy putting away the bad guys in court, he’s taking it to them on the battlefield.Raised in Bracebridge, Morische is a criminal defence lawyer in Toronto and an officer with the Canadian Forces.'My common joke is that I defend the constitution and the charter in two different ways,' quipped Morische last week on his way to trial.The 37-year-old is currently preparing to take part in a mission to Afghanistan later this year, although he can’t reveal exactly when.'I’m a little nervous but I’m confident in the training we receive in the Canadian Forces, and I’m confident in the soldiers I’m going with,” said Morische. 'I’m very much aware of the dangers … but it’s as good a situation as you could hope for.'"This is a really interesting and inspiring story. Read the whole thing at Bracebridge Examiner.
Law school launches police accountability and complaints program
KIRK MAKIN JUSTICE REPORTERJanuary 19, 2009 "The University of Windsor law school will launch a program next month aimed at enhancing police accountability and reducing the use of racial profiling.In what is believed to be the first program of its kind, the school will provide advice about racial profiling and police oversight to government, public interest organizations, community groups - and police forces themselves. It will also advise civilians who want to lodge complaints regarding police conduct."See the whole Globe and Mail article here.
A recent email exchange about billable hours for lawyers
Hi Drew. Glad to hear you are enjoying the book. Your questions are good ones, but ones that I cannot fully answer. I'll do my best - see below.2009/1/12 DrewDear Adam,I'm in the process of reading your book now and I'm finding it very informative. I'm in the second year of my undergrad yet I've wanted to go to law school ever since a mock trial experience in grade 5. I've read enough John Grisham to know about how consuming billable hours can be yet, one thing is unclear to me. It is true that billable hours can be overwhelming. Firms in Alberta can expect anywhere from 1000 to 2500 billable hours from their associates each year. Depending on the type of law, and the efficiency of the lawyer, this can equate to 1400 to 5000 actual work hours, or 28 to 100 hours per week of working. I know many lawyers who work 80 to 100 hours per week. That's equivalent to 12+ hours per day. It doesn't need to be like this, and I have many lawyer friends (including myself) that have more reasonable 35-45 hour work weeks.Do lawyers earn overtime? If you work more than 8 hours a day aren't you obliged to earn overtime at an increased hourly rate under labour law? No, usually they do not (perhaps if you work for the Alberta or Canadian governments). Different law firms treat things differently. Most are salaried. There is no overtime for salaried employees of any type. You get paid X dollars per year to do the job, and that's it. Many firms also pay bonuses based upon performance. I.e. if you hit your billable goals, or receipt goals. Many firms have now moved to a commission program, where the lawyer gets around 40% of any receipts that they bring in. This provides great incentive for many lawyers. For sole practitioners, and partnerships, you get paid any profit after expenses, so the harder and more efficiently you work, the more money you make.Finally, is there a website where I could see trends in the annual salaries of lawyers? Not just for 1st year associates but for 3rd 4th and 6th year associates? I like the description of the appeal that a small town practice can offer in your book. However, I wonder what kind of salaries do more experienced lawyers in these settings bring in? Not that I am aware of, at least not for Canada, but check on places such as lawstudents.ca or lawbuzz.ca. Perhaps somebody has posted some info there.As in any profession, there is a wide range of salaries for lawyers. There are poverty lawyers who get paid very little, and some lawyers (such as Tony Merchant of Merchant Law Group) who make millions and millions. I find that many 1-5 year big firm lawyers in Calgary or Edmonton, Toronto, or places like that, make anywhere between $70K and $200K, depending on their situation. Now, taking into account the number of hours they work, this can seem like a good salary, or not such a good salary.The same applies to small town or small city lawyers. I make, probably, as much as the big city lawyers, but I work far less, and really enjoy my work. That's not the same for everyone. I have our main office in a city of about 70,000, and a branch office in a town of about 3,500. It works for me...If you have any other questions, let me know. Oh, and would you mind giving me a positive comment on Chapters.ca or Amazon.ca? And could I post this email to my blog? Others would probably appreciate it. Thanks!Adam Letourneau -- Drew