When do I need a Lawyer?

The following is from a brochure written by a very junior lawyer, Louise P. Campbell in 1986. But it remains as valid today as it was then:

Buying and Selling your Home

If you are selling, a lawyer can ensure that you receive all your expected proceeds, and that your obligations relating to the property are ended.

When purchasing, the lawyer’s job is to ensure that the title and the property are exactly in the legal condition which you expected, with no surprises.

If you are placing a mortgage, the lending institution will require that you have a lawyer. Flat rates can usually be quoted for most real estate transaction, and these will include the lawyer’s fees and out-of-pocket costs (disbursements).

Your Will

Although it is legal in Alberta to write your own will, a lawyer can make sure that the will states, in proper language, exactly the wishes you want carried out. A flat rate is common for a simple will.


If you wish to sue another party, who has wronged you in some way, or if you are sued, then you should consult a lawyer immediately, and decide whether to sue or defend. Once this decision has been made, your lawyer will start the lawsuit or your defence, and then prepare court documents, evidence, exhibits and arguments. You will be asked to cooperate fully.

In the case of a lawsuit, the fees will be determined either by an hourly rate or a percentage of a successful claim.

Divorce or Separation

In the situation of a divorce or separation, you may wish to consult and hire a lawyer. If the separation or divorce is friendly, a lawyer can prepare the necessary documents inexpensively and efficiently.

If the separation or divorce is not friendly, a lawyer can act as an effective intermediary on difficult questions such as custody of children and property rights. In these situations, a lawyer can help you avoid unpleasant confrontations and will go to court on your behalf if necessary.

If your divorce is straight forward a flat rate may apply. If you expect complications then a lawyer will charge an hourly rate for all services, including time spent with you in negotiation, all communication, for court preparation and court time.

Upon the death of a Friend or Relative

If you have been appointed an Executor fo any Estate you may wish to engage the services of a lawyer to assist you with Probate of the Will and with the transfer and distribution of assets to the proper people.

A lawyer is also able to hold funds in trust on behalf of beneficiaries during distribution.

Finally, a lawyer can advise, in the case of a small estate, whether or not there is need for Probate.

Rates are based on combination of the lawyer’s hourly rate, and the value of the estate.

Incorporation of Your Business

For a variety of reasons, you may wish to incorporate your business. A lawyer can assist you with the filing of all the documents and subsequent maintenance of records. A lawyer can also prepare any agreements which might be necessary, to put in writing the terms under which you do business with partners or shareholders. A lawyer can also help you with tax planning in these areas. An initial consultation to determine your needs is a good idea.

Incorporation is usually quoted on a flat rate basis. Later, records and agreements are done on an hourly rate.

Other Matters

Lawyers are also available for short consultations on a variety of legal matters, at a specified fee.

In addition, lawyers also provide the services of notarizing out-of-province documents, and advising on Personal Guarantees. All lawyers are Commissioners for Oaths as are many of their staff members.

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