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What to prepare before you see a lawyer

If you’re involved in non-personal injury litigation, whether you are being sued or you are suing someone else, there are several things that you should prepare before you initially see a lawyer.

Typically, a potential client will first contact a lawyer with a telephone call or email in which the client will generally describe their dispute and see if the lawyer can assist them. There are a number of questions that you, as a client, should ask your potential lawyer during this initial contact. First, you should make sure that the lawyer practices in the area of law in which you have your dispute. For example, you do not want to hire an estates lawyer to represent you in a construction lien matter. Second, you should ask about legal fees, and particularly you should ask the lawyer for their hourly rate and find out if the lawyer will require a monetary retainer, and if so, how much they require. Lawyers can ask for monetary retainers of upwards of $5,000, which they require before they start working on your file. The lawyer may not allow monetary retainers to be paid with a credit card, so you will need cash (i.e., cheque, certified cheque, money order) to pay the retainer.

Often, potential clients will ask about their chances of success during this initial contact. However, more often than not, the lawyer is not in a position to opine on the chances of success at that time. The lawyer will require more information, and will need to review all the relevant documents, before they can give any kind of opinion on the merits of your case.

Therefore, it is imperative that you prepare all the relevant documents for your lawyer to review. It is best, if you can, to send your documents to your lawyer before your initial meeting. The lawyer should review your documents before the meeting, allowing them to have a more productive meeting with you. After reviewing the documents, the lawyer will have a better idea about what the issues in the litigation are, the parties involved, the applicable limitation period and ultimately, will be in a better position to assess the case in terms of both potential outcome and costs.

What documents should you send to the lawyer? The documents will vary depending on the type of file (i.e., real estate, construction, condominium, commercial dispute, etc.). But generally speaking, you should send your lawyer all correspondence (including emails and text messages), all contracts, photographs, invoices, change orders, etc.

Finally, if you are being sued, always check and see whether you have insurance that will respond to the lawsuit. If you do have insurance, the insurer may be required to defend you in the lawsuit.

Litigation is stressful and expensive no matter which side of the dispute you are on. Hiring the right lawyer with the knowledge and experience with your type of dispute goes a long way to obtaining a positive outcome. Providing your lawyer with all of the relevant information and documents up front will help to streamline the process and determine the best strategy to resolve the matter.

Disclaimer and Cautionary Note

The foregoing provides only an overview and does not constitute legal advice or establish a lawyer-client relationship with the authors, Brazeau Seller Law or Howard Yegendorf & Associates LLP. Readers are cautioned against making any decisions based on this material alone. Rather, specific legal advice should be obtained from a qualified lawyer.

Victoria Boddy is an Associate with Brazeau Seller LLP and Howard Yegendorf & Associates LLP. Victoria can be reached at 613-237-5000 ext. 240 or For more information about Victoria, please visit