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94-05 : Statements of Account for Legal Services

Each year the Society receives a number of complaints from clients concerning the fees charged by their lawyers. In the course of attempting to resolve fee disputes and investigate some complaints, it appears to the Society that some members of the profession do not appreciate their professional and ethical obligation to provide their clients upon request with sufficiently detailed information explaining the fees and disbursements charged by the lawyer, so as to enable the client to understand the nature of the charges and determine whether in the client's opinion the amounts charged were fair and reasonable.

The Society therefore wishes to ensure that all members of the profession are aware of the position the Society has consistently taken in the past with respect to statements of account:

 

  1. A lawyer is not entitled to charge a client for the time which the lawyer spends preparing a statement of account;

     

  2. If a client requests an itemized statement of account, the lawyer must provide the client with sufficient details of the legal services provided and the disbursements incurred so that the client can reasonably determine whether the fees and disbursements are fair and reasonable. Where the lawyer's retainer is based on an hourly rate, the detailed statement of account should consist of an itemized listing of the services provided with a break down of the amount of time for each service performed and the hourly rate clearly indicated. The lawyer is not entitled to charge the client for the time the lawyer spends preparing the itemized account as the client is entitled to receive the itemized information at no additional cost.

The Society wishes to remind members that misunderstandings and disputes with clients concerning fees may be avoided if clients are routinely provided with detailed explanations concerning the fees charged and disbursements incurred, or if this information is provided promptly upon request when a client questions the fairness of a bill.

Members are also reminded of the recommendations outlined in Practice Direction 86-02, and all members are strongly encouraged to confirm their fee arrangements with clients in writing at the time of retainer in order to avoid later misunderstandings.

(April 1994)

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