The Alberta Limited Legal Services Project


Information for Clients

Lawyers are usually paid on a contingency basis, meaning that they get paid if and when they are successful, or on an hourly rate. Contingency work is great for some legal problems, like those involving car accidents, but isn't practical for other problems, like criminal charges or family law disputes. In cases like these, lawyers will charge for their work at their hourly rate or, sometimes, at a flat fee that is agreed ot ahead of time.

The lawyers involved in the Alberta Limited Legal Services Project will charge you at their usual hourly rate. Some lawyers will work for a flat rate, if the service you would like them to perform can be done at a flat rate. However, the lawyers won't handle all of your legal problem, just a part of it.

Click here to download a brochure describing the project. Click here to download a copy of a helpful Guide for Clients prepared by Rob Harvie QC.

Finding a lawyer

To hire a lawyer, first go to the participating lawyers page and look for lawyers in your community. Call or email one or two of the listed lawyers and arrange a time to meet with them. Make sure the lawyers know that you're looking to hire them for a limited legal service.

When it's time to meet the lawyer, be sure to bring the documents and other materials that relate to your legal situation with you. Explain your problem to the lawyer, and ask the lawyer for her opinion about your case and whether what you need can be done on its own, without the lawyer having to deal with other aspects of your case. Use the meeting to decide how you feel about the lawyer and her approach to legal problems and whether you feel confident in her abilities.

Hiring a lawyer

If you decide that you want to hire the lawyer, ask the lawyer how much she thinks her services will cost and ask how much money the lawyer needs to start work on your problem. Most lawyers will want to be given a deposit (called a retainer) before they begin. The lawyer may want you to provide a retainer that is equal to the amount she things the work will likely cost; this is especially likely if the work you want her to do is very brief or if the lawyer has agreed to be paid a flat rate for her services.

The lawyer will prepare a contract (called a retainer agreement) describing the terms of her services, including her hourly rate, the tasks she charges for and whether interest will accumulate on unpaid bills, and describing the work you have asked her to perform. This document is very important. Not only does it outline your financial obligations to the lawyer, it states exactly what the lawyer has agreed to do for you, how you can ask the lawyer to do more work than agreed to and how the retainer agreement will be changed if more work needs to be done.

Make sure you ask whether the lawyer has everything she needs to get started, or whether there are additional documents and information that she has to have first, before you leave. Also ask when the lawyer will be able to start working on your problem.

You don't have to hire the first lawyer you meet. You're entitled to shop around and make sure that the fit between you and the lawyer is right!

Giving your feedback

The purposes of the Limited Legal Services Project include getting a better understanding of how lawyers and their clients use limited legal services and their satisfaction with work provided on that basis. A lot of people have said that limited legal services will help improve people's access to justice; we want to find out if that's true.

When your lawyer has finished the work you agreed would be done, we will ask you to complete a very short survey about the work the lawyer performed, whether you are happy with the work performed and whether you think it helped you with your legal problem. (We'll be asking your lawyer to fill out a survey too.) The survey will not be used to identify you, or the lawyer you hired, and will be kept in strict confidence by the Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family.

It is really important that you complete this survey. If limited legal services helped you, we need to know! We also need to know if they didn't. In return for filling out your survey, and to show our thanks, we'll enter you in a monthly draw for a $100 prepaid Visa gift card!

If you've hired a lawyer participating in the Limited Legal Services Project but didn't get a link to the survey, click here to go to the survey.

Resolving a problem

All lawyers in Alberta are members of the Law Society of Alberta. The Law Society exists to protect the public and make sure that lawyers perform their services in an ethical, competent way. If you have a problem with the lawyer you have hired, first try to talk her about why you are dissatisfied. Most lawyers are very concerned that their clients are happy with their work. If you don't want to talk to the lawyer or feel it wouldn't be helpful, then call the Law Society. No fees are charged to talk to the Law Society and you don't need to hire a lawyer.

The Limited Legal Services Project is not responsible for the lawyers involved, the work they perform or for the amount they charge for their work. If you are unhappy with the lawyer you have hired, please contact the Law Society.


Frequently Asked Questions

This section addresses common questions about the Limited Legal Services Project. It will be updated from time to time as the need to clarify things arises. Please send questions to John-Paul Boyd at

Completing the survey

When should I complete the client survey?
You should complete the survey when your lawyer has finished the work you agreed the lawyer would do. Please try to complete the survey as soon as possible, while your experience with the lawyer is still fresh in your mind.

Where do I find the survey?
The survey is at

Is the survey confidential?
Yes. Your responses to the survey are anonymous, confidential and won't be linked to or associated with your lawyer's responses. Your lawyer will not be told about your responses and we will not use your survey to identify your lawyer, nor your lawyer's survey to identify you. We will ask for your name and email address if you decide to enter the monthly draw for a $100 prepaid Visa gift card, but we will keep that information confidential and separate from your answers to the survey questions.

Using other lawyers

Are project lawyers the only lawyers who do limited legal work?
No. Other lawyers may be prepared to limited legal services. You are not limited to the lawyers who are participating in this project!

Hiring roster lawyers

Can you introduce me to a lawyer?
Sure, but honestly we'd rather not. That's why we've created this website. To find a lawyer, go the go to the participating lawyers page and look for lawyers in your community who work in the area of law you need help with. Call or email one or two of the listed lawyers and arrange a time to meet with them. Make sure the lawyers know that you're looking to hire them for a limited legal service.

Can I change my mind and ask the lawyer to manage all of my case for me?
You certainly can, however the lawyer also has to have the time to help with your full case. For most lawyers, limited legal services are relatively easy to fit into their schedules. Although full cases involve a lot more work and can be difficult to shoehorn into a busy calendar, it certainly doesn't hurt to ask. You and your lawyer will talk about whether it's possible for her to take all of your case.



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