To print this article, all you need to do is be registered or log in to Mondaq.com.
In the case of Kay vs. Randell and Randell 1997 CanLII 2894 (BC SC) Attorney Patterson made the following comment regarding how the clients in this case came to choose their lawyer:
In her testimony, Ms. Randell said she trusted Mr. Kay to do the right thing and that she relied on what he told her. An indication of clients’ lack of sophistication in obtaining and using legal services is that they hired Mr. Kay based on an ad in the Yellow Pages,
without apparently doing much or any further investigation. (emphasis added)
Often people will choose a lawyer based on the 2017 version of the yellow pages, internet. They will google their legal problem and a list of lawyers will appear who claim to have particular skills or expertise in that area of law. But does this lawyer really have the necessary experience and expertise? How do you know?
In the age of internet search terms and websites, many attorneys claim to specialize in a particular area of law. This is so even though the rules of the Law Society of British Columbia expressly prohibit a lawyer from claiming to be a specialist in any area of law. Here is the rule:
Unless otherwise permitted by the Legal Profession Act, the Law Society Rules, this Code or the Benchers, a lawyer must:
(a) not to use the title “specialist” or any similar designation suggesting recognized special status or accreditation in any other marketing activity, and
(b) take all reasonable steps to discourage the use, with respect to the lawyer by another person, of the title of “specialist” or any similar designation suggesting recognized special status or accreditation in any activity of marketing.
Many lawyers will present themselves as “litigators”. One would assume that this means they go to court often, have experience in the trial process, have obtained a number of judgments (hopefully favourable) and are comfortable in court. But did you know that a newly appointed lawyer can present himself as a “litigator” without ever having conducted a single trial? There is no rule against that.
Choosing our lawyer without doing your own due diligence?
Well, how do you know if the lawyer you’re about to hire is the real deal? The internet can be very helpful in this regard. Do you count on those “Rate My Lawyer” websites where all sorts of accolades are posted by people who may or may not be qualified to give an opinion on the quality of legal work (or worse, do a favor for a friend or family member in the field of law). You’ll see things like “Smith is the best lawyer I’ve ever had!” Well, maybe they only had one lawyer in their life, or Smith was the cheapest they could find. How can you ever verify what is being said on these types of websites? You can not.
Flashy websites don’t make a good lawyer. Any lawyer can put on their court robe and have their picture taken in a courthouse; or being photographed reading legal briefs at “3am”. Beware of advertising claims on websites such as “over 70 years of combined experience”. What does that mean? You could hire a firm of 70 first-year lawyers or 25 lawyers with 2 years experience. You had the idea.
If you really want to know if the lawyer you are about to entrust with your case and your future is a trial lawyer, the first question should be “how many trials have you done”? The second question should be “how many lawsuits have you done as lead counsel on your own” Ask what kind of lawsuit the lawyer has done – do you take a six figure personal injury case to a lawyer who doesn’t ever tried in the Supreme Court and only appeared in small claims court? Has the lawyer ever done a jury trial? Does the attorney have experience in the type of law you are dealing with? These are important questions to ask the professional to whom you are about to entrust your file.
Perhaps you should pay more attention to what the judges have said about the lawyers appearing before them or what the Law Society has to say about its disciplinary record. You can learn a lot about a lawyer’s experience by viewing published court decisions online. You can go to the provincial, supreme, or British Columbia Court of Appeal websites, type in the attorney’s name, and search. Any reported judgment will show up in your search if that lawyer was counsel in the case. Another great free resource is a website called WWW. CanLii.org. This website covers cases across Canada. Type in the name of the lawyer you have chosen and see for yourself what their background and level of experience are. You may even find that he or she is a past (or present) party to a lawsuit!
You can also check the BC Law Society website www.LawSociety.bc.ca to see if the lawyer you have chosen has ever been suspended or otherwise disciplined by the Law Society, and for what. You can find out what year your attorney was called to the bar. You can go to WWW.Martindale.com to see where your attorney went to college and what other attorneys knowledgeable in their field have to say about your attorney’s experience and reputation. Every lawyer has a law degree from somewhere; wouldn’t you like to know from where? And half of those lawyers graduated in the bottom half of their class.
Ask around, educate yourself and make sure the lawyer you choose has the qualifications, knowledge and experience to do the job. An attractive photo, anecdotal notes on the Internet and a flashy web page should not be the criteria for choosing your legal representation.
Dig deep and ask the hard questions before deciding on your legal representation. After all, isn’t that what you want your lawyer to do?
About Mackrel International – Canada – Lindsay Kenney LLP is a full-service business law firm with offices in Vancouver and Langley, BC and a member of Mackrell International. Mackrell International – Canada is made up of four independent law firms in Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec. Each firm is regionally based and well connected in our communities, a benefit shared with our clients. Through close relationships among our Canadian member firms, we are committed to working with clients who have legal needs in multiple jurisdictions in Canada.
This article is intended as an overview and is for informational purposes only.
POPULAR ARTICLES ON: Canadian Litigation, Mediation & Arbitration