The Ontario Court of Appeal has reaffirmed that agreements between lawyers and their clients about legal fees engage the public interest and that the courts have a supervisory role to play. Paul Auerbach of McNally Gervan successfully represented the appellant, Mark Clatney, in asking the court to set aside agreeements he reached with his lawyers after his personal injury claim was settled in 2013.
In their May 19, 2016 ruling the province’s highest court said that two Ottawa law firms should not be able to avoid the assessment of their accounts, which allows clients to have a court official review their lawyers’ bills to ensure they are fair and reasonable. The two firms had entered into agreements with Mr. Clatney after the settlement of his personal injury claim in July 2013. They then obtained a court order, with Mr. Clatney’s consent, for the payment of their fees and disbursements out of the proceeds of settlement. The Court of Appeal held that those agreements and the court order should be set aside so that the assessment process could proceed. The court criticized the conduct of one of the firms, noting that they gave Mr. Clatney incorrect legal advice and effectively increased the pressure on him to agree to their demands for legal fees.
A copy of the decision can be found at the following link:
Clients frequently have questions and concerns about their agreements with their lawyers and the fees being charged to them. Those quesitons (and the answers) are important. The lawyers at McNally Gervan understand the importance of such questions and are always glad to answer them.