Chief Justice McLachlin suggests ways to cut legal fees



By Janice Tibbetts, Postmedia News August 15, 2010


Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, shown in a file photo, spoke Saturday about the possibility of 'unbundling' legal fees.

Photograph by: Bruce Edwards, Postmedia News

Canada's chief justice suggested Saturday that legal fees could be more affordable if lawyers were "more flexible" in billing their clients, perhaps by "unbundling" their services in favour of -la-carte options.

Beverley McLachlin cautioned that she is not telling lawyers how to run their business. However, she said that charging flat fees for some services rather than hourly rates, and allowing clients to do some of the work themselves, are all options that are being considered by a legal task force of lawyers and judges who are trying to improve access to justice.

"There are a lot of ideas out there, and we are exploring them now," she told a news conference at the annual gathering of the Canadian Bar Association. "It would be premature for me to say which ones are going to work and which ones are not."

Canadian lawyers are debating whether to follow a U.S. trend of "unbundling" legal fees, allowing their clients to pay less by doing some of the work themselves.

The prospect has been simmering in the legal community at a time when a growing number of Canadians are representing themselves in court and there is a school of thought that lawyers will put themselves out of business if they don't change the way they charge.