We understand that you are reaching out to us at what may be the scariest time of your life. You may never have consulted with a lawyer before, or at least not spoken with one on an urgent basis. You may be frightened and confused, and we will do our best to walk you through your next steps while treating you with dignity and respect throughout.
Before Your Visit
Before your visit to our office, if possible, write out a detailed history of all of the incidents in question, including any information that may be relevant to your case. Try to keep all of the information in chronological order, so that it is easier for the lawyer to read and to follow along with. Be sure to mark each page of the document across the top of the page with “PRIVATE AND CONFIDENTIAL – FOR MY LAWYER” to ensure that solicitor-client privilege, or any protections that you have from your unique relationship with your lawyer, are preserved.
You will also want to bring with you any documents that you have received from police or from the prosecutor, such as disclosure or your bail paperwork. These will all be useful for the lawyer to have on file when reviewing your case.
Talking With Others
While it may feel natural to confide in friends or relatives during a stressful time, that is the wrong approach when criminal matters are involved. Anyone that you confide in, including your spouse, may be legally compelled to testify against you about what you have told them. The only person that you can have a protected conversation with is your lawyer, and they can advise you of what you can say to anyone else, if asked.
At MMH, we will do our best to work with you so that you can work with us.
What is a retainer?
In law, the word ‘retainer’ has two meanings: one is the contract that you sign with a lawyer where they agree to represent you, and the other is a set amount of money that the lawyer will take initially to begin working on your file. This money is placed into a lawyers’ trust account, and they will invoice routinely for work they have completed. These invoices are then paid out of funds in the retainer amount.
Your lawyer will speak with you about how much is needed for an initial retainer, and how often this amount may need to be replenished to do more work on your file. Your lawyer will NOT do any work on your file without sufficient retainer funds, so any delay in paying these amounts will result in a stoppage of work from the lawyer.
What is a billable hour?
Lawyers generally bill their time at an hourly rate, which is broken down in tenths, or at 6-minute intervals. A lawyer will monitor their time, and invoice you accordingly, so that a letter may take 2.3 hours, or a phone call may be .6 hours, and these items will be listed accordingly.
What are block fees?
Depending on the nature of the matter, your lawyer may be able to provide a block fee rate for certain portions of your matter. For example, an initial court appearance may be billable at a flat fee, or your lawyer may propose doing block fees for certain portions of your matter, such as appearances.
We understand that block fees can be helpful in order to estimate your legal costs. Please understand though that just as legal outcomes are impossible to predict with certainty, so is the amount of work that will go into structuring your defence, and so flexible fees will allow our team to do whatever work may be required to represent you.
What will my matter cost?
Again as with block fees, this is difficult to say up front. While simpler charges may have an established legal pattern with more predictable results, and thus more predictable fees, no two cases are exactly alike. We promise you that we will be transparent about your fees at all times, and we are always happy to provide our best estimates of what costs may lie ahead in resolving your matter.
Are you able to negotiate your fees?
In short, yes. We are committed to working with you in order to help resolve your matter. While we do have established rates, in cases of financial hardship there may be options available. We would be happy to discuss that with you confidentially on your visit and see what arrangements may be feasible in order to represent you.
While criminal law is complicated, it generally follows a predictable formula that allows us to guide you through each step of your case as it unfolds.
When you are charged with a criminal offence, you will either be released on a promise to appear, or immediately put in jail. If you are immediately jailed then there may be a bail hearing scheduled shortly thereafter, otherwise police will release you from custody as long as you promise to appear on a scheduled date.
At this point you should already be retaining a lawyer to help you through your situation. The next time you will formally appear in court, which is known as a first appearance, you will be formally presented with the charges against you and informed of all the evidence that the prosecution will use against you. This is NOT your trial, but it is important for your lawyer to be fully aware of both the charges and that evidence.
From there, your lawyer will have the opportunity to review all of the evidence against you in depth. This is where they will go through every last detail with you in order to build their theory of the case, and prepare you eventually for trial. You and your lawyer are going to work closely together through this process so that you can help them paint a picture, so a strong working relationship with your lawyer and trust in their skillset are key to building a strong defence.
There are numerous steps in the legal process ahead of your actual trial, including Crown and judicial pretrials, where your lawyer will meet with the Crown prosecutor, possibly the police officer in charge, and in the case of judicial pretrials a judge as well in order to obtain their input. During all of these meetings your lawyer will be fighting for you – advocating to your charges dropped or your potential penalties reduced wherever possible. Your job is to allow them to represent you fully, which means being honest, cooperative, and respectful of their process, while being helpful to them whenever asked.
Whether or not your case goes as far as trial, your lawyer will help outline your options and advise you of how to proceed at every step of the way. While your fate may be in a judge or jury’s hands, your lawyer will help guide that judge and jury to see the rightness of your position, so having a skilled advocate will put you in the best possible position to make that defence.
Servicing all of greater Toronto area including: