Jul 12, 2013

Legal profession should consider opening up about costs

Advocate Daily Post

An Ontario judge’s recent critique of the province’s justice system, warning its courts are increasingly only open to the rich, highlights the need for lawyers to justify the value of their services, says Toronto lawyer Richard Worsfold.

In York University v. Michael Markicevic, York University launched a lawsuit against former assistant vice-president Michael Markicevic, accusing him of a $1.2-million fraud.

The case is a year-and-a-half old, accruing hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal costs, with no trial date in sight, the Globe and Mail reports.

Justice David M. Brown calls the case an example of a national problem where more and more civil defendants face the prospect of legal fees maximizing their financial resources before they even reach a trial, the report says.

Such a state of affairs reflects an unacceptable failure on the part of our civil justice system, Brown writes in the decision.

Worsfold, partner with Basman Smith LLP, says one solution to the issue lies with the public, and their choice of legal counsel.

It is true that litigation is becoming extremely expensive and is out of reach for many, but there are 45,000 lawyers practising in Ontario and most of them charge nothing close to $850 an hour, which is the cost quoted in the decision, says Worsfold. There’s a number of well-managed small firms that will take on matters at a fraction of the cost.

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