Contingency fees are simply a matter of paying your legal fees where the bill is tied to success. In England they call it no win no fee and that’s exactly what it is. If there’s no success in your claim then you don’t pay a fee.
It’s important to distinguish between fees and disbursements. The law society of Ontario now stipulates exactly what the terms of a contingency fee agreement are. Historically firms have simply made up a contract of their own. They varied widely from firm to firm. A few years ago our contingency fee agreement was one paragraph, then through different mandates from the law society it grew to 4, 5, 12 pages and now the law society has simply stipulated that the wording of the agreements all be the same. So typically a lawyer in a contingency fee agreement won’t ask for a retainer. The lawyer can because as like I said fees and disbursements are different. Disbursements relate to money the lawyer spends building the case. The cost of a medical report, the cost of filing documents with the court, the cost of obtaining a transcript from examination for discovery – these things are all disbursements which are typically not contingent. Many lawyers will simply walk away from their disbursements if there’s no success. In other cases there is adverse cost insurance available to cover the disbursements in the event that the case is unsuccessful. So there are ways to protect yourself against the eventuality of ever having to pay those things should your case not be successful. But first and foremost the contingency fee agreement is when you don’t get a bill from the lawyer every three months or every six months or annually. You don’t have to pay as you go
Injury lawyers in the province of Ontario are going to bill somewhere between 350 and 850 dollars per hour so the idea that you would have to pay as you go to maintain an injury claim is simply untenable. There would be no injury claims and very few people would be able to access the courts, to access justice, if there were no contingency fees.
Contingency fees then truly are about access to justice you.