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A Defence lawyer's perspective on issues in criminal law

Please be aware that all commentary in my blog is designed to promote discourse on a variety of topics.  Though I certainly do some research on the topics discussed and often offer my "two-cents", please keep in mind that nothing I say in this blog is meant to be taken as authoritative on any subject.  My comments are really just me exercising my freedom of expression for the purpose of offering some insight on topics related to the practice of criminal law. As with all topics of discussion, it is important for you to be critical.  If you need a defence lawyer, please call 403.452.8018 for a free telephone consultation or consult with an experienced Calgary criminal lawyer. Happy reading!  Happy watching!

 


Legal Aid in Calgary

April 25, 2019

legal aid in calgary

Almost every Calgary criminal lawyer accepts at least a few cases every year on Legal Aid.  To help avoid any confusion, I have elected to post my Legal Aid retainer letter, containing conditions for my Legal Aid services.  I do this so that all clients and potential clients understand their obligations to me and their defence when I accept a case on Legal Aid.  I am free to adjust these conditions at any time or to tailer them to the specific circumstances of any given case.  

___________________________________________________________________________________________

April 25, 2019

 

                                                                                                            Sent Via Mail/Email

Mr./Mrs. Client:

 

RE: Retainer Letter                                                                                                                

 

This correspondence is to advise that I have accepted the retainer/appointment of your services on Legal Aid.  Thank you for requesting me.  At the outset, it is important for you to understand that I do not accept all appointments offered through Legal Aid, but when I do, I take all available legal steps to fully defend the case.  This means that for the purpose of handling the case in Court, accepting instructions and mounting a full and proper defence, you are not treated differently than my private retainer clients.  In my opinion, if a lawyer accepts a case, he or she must defend it vigorously and responsibly.

 

This is my Legal Aid appointment/retainer letter. It generally outlines some of the basics to our solicitor-client relationship.  For me to act in your best interest it is important for us to have a meaningful relationship so that I can best defend your case. This relationship begins with an understanding that I will do my level best to help you and that you will respect your court obligations, obligations to participate in helping me when requested and will respect my time. On that last point, it is very important to understand that Legal Aid is paid on a tariff basis, so time allocation is very important.  Finally, it is important to keep in mind that law is a business for me, so the interplay between business and law also factors into our relationship.

 

It is very important for you to understand that there are some critical client obligations. To begin with I often rely heavily on my legal assistant to communicate with clients about a plethora of topics and as such, it is important for you to be polite and courteous with her at all times. She is effectively an extension of me.

 

It is also important that all contact information is up to date with my office at all times.  Since you are the client, it is necessary for me to communicate with you regularly and to receive instructions with respect to your case in a timely matter. I prefer contact by email.

 

I ask that you communicate with me on my cell phone in urgent circumstances only; otherwise, I request that all communications be filtered through my legal assistant or preferably email during regular business hours.  Text message is an effective way to communicate as well. I ask that you be respectful with “after-hours” contact, restricting it wherever possible to emergent circumstances only. Please understand, I deal with many clients, all who require my time and energy.  I prioritize my time in accordance with the nature the upcoming court appearances for each client.  Evenings are generally spent preparing cases for the next day. If I get spread too thin -- such as for example, by having to chat with clients about non-urgent matters at all hours -- I can’t do an effective job for anybody. Contacting me at all hours of the night to discuss non-urgent issues that can wait until the next day must be avoided.  Simply, I ask that you are respectful with my time.

 

Please understand that as a lawyer I represent many clients and as such, I often need to prioritize cases depending upon the stage of any given case. With that in mind, there may be rare occasions where I am unable to communicate back with you within 48 hours.  I always make best efforts to return communications either personally or through my assistant but there are times when this is simply not possible. Should that occur, I ask that you be patient, as the same courtesy will be given to you. Also, please do not hesitate to contact my office and speak with my legal assistant or leave a message.  

 

Also, though as a general practice I try to consistently report updates about your case, there may be occasions where I am distracted by other matters. If you do not hear from me for a long period of time, or I do not communicate an expected update, please do not remain silent; drop me an email or message and I will get back to you. Like any human being, I sometimes need a reminder.

 

I often use my associates in Court for procedural or administrative matters. This is a necessary function of the practice of criminal law because Defence lawyers are often required to be in multiple courtrooms, in multiple jurisdictions, at the same time. It is important that all interactions with my agent be in a polite and respectful manor.  They are also an extension of me.

 

Finally, bail (or judicial interim release) is critical to mounting an effective defence.  As important as bail is, it is also an incredibly time consuming endeavor for which Legal Aid does not fairly compensate.  Accordingly, if you have bail, it is your responsibility -- from a purely legal perspective -- not to breach.  Also, it is important to understand, I cannot necessarily be available for emergency bail hearings or to handle new charges that arise while on bail.  It is also important to remember that your Legal Aid coverage is only for the matters on my certificate as at the time of the appointment, and therefore, new charges are not necessarily covered. For example, there is often zero immediate Legal Aid coverage for new offences. An appointment on Legal Aid does not mean that I am “on call” to handle bail hearings for breaches or new charges. I do not say this to be harsh; rather, I say it so that you understand the important of bail and my position about handling breaches of that bail.

 

Circumstances for getting off record as counsel of record:

 

There are circumstances where I will apply to be relieved as your lawyer of record.

 

I am free to withdraw my services at any time if I have good reason. For example, I would withdraw my services if a client:

  • Misrepresented facts or failed to disclose important facts;
  • Failed to disclose issues relating to his or her defence in a timely manner;
  • Did not cooperate with me in any reasonable request;
  • Failed to attend Court when required;
  • Asks me to do something unethical or illegal;
  • Breaches bail or obtains new charges not covered by my Legal Aid certificate;
  • Non-contact or loss of contact with my office.

 

I would also have to withdraw my services if I learn of a conflict of interest that would make it unethical for me to continue to act for you. A conflict of interest occurs in circumstances where a lawyer represents one or more clients who are not aligned in interest.   

 

It is also important to know that I WILL NOT discuss your case with anyone other than you. Should you wish to waive confidentiality so that I may discuss your case with a family member (or somebody else), this will have to be relayed in writing to my office. Please note that I am not obliged to discuss your case with anyone other than you, even when confidentiality is waived. Discussions with authorized third-parties is a courtesy.

 

Lastly, my office is open by appointment only. Should you happen to call and I do not answer, please leave a detailed message as voicemails are generally checked daily.  Again, where possible, I prefer communication by email. 

 

I look forward to helping you and to having a positive working relationship. 

 

Please feel free to contact my office should you have any questions or concerns.

  

Yours truly,

 

 

David G. Chow

 

___________________________________________________________________________________

I hope this example of my Legal Aid retainer letter is of assistance to you.  I do occasionally agree to help clients on Legal Aid outside of Calgary.  In particular, I am more likely to accept a Legal Aid Certificate in Brooks, Lethbridge, Cochrane, Okotoks, Airdrie, Strahtmore or Didsbury.  For a free telephone consultation please feel free to call me at 403.452.8018.


This entry was posted on April 25, 2019


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