If you need a lawyer, it is important to know how to find the right one for your needs. That is why we’ve put together some expert advice on how to find a lawyer in Ontario.
Afterall, you only want a lawyer when things have gotten really bad, or sometimes, really good!
Before signing a retainer or making any payments for legal services, you should always ask yourself these questions first:
- What kind of lawyer do I need?
- How do I find the best lawyer for the right price?
What kind of lawyer do I need?
First, you need to determine what type of lawyer you need because most law firms specialize in only 1 or 2 types of legal practice.
Types of lawyers in Ontario:
- Family lawyer
- Employment lawyer
- Real estate lawyer
- Criminal lawyer
- Personal injury lawyer
- Immigration lawyer
- Disability lawyer
Scan the list above and pick the category of legal service that fits your current situation.
For example, if you have been in a car accident then you are looking for a personal injury lawyer. Or, if you are looking to buy a house then you need a real estate lawyer.
Here is some more information about each type of legal practice that may help you choose the right lawyer:
Family lawyers are specialists in the areas of family law which includes divorce, child custody, child support and spousal support.
They can also help you draft or review a prenuptial agreement.
Family law also includes disputes over money including support payments, the division of family property and the treatment of a matrimonial home.
The best family lawyers have experience with marriage issues, family property issues and issues that arise between family members that require legal attention.
Some other things you should know about Ontario family law:
- Property is split 50/50 if a marriage ends but, there are exceptions to this rule.
- You can use a marriage contract before and after getting married to outline expectations during a marriage.
- Common law couples do not have the same rights as married couples when it comes to property purchased when living together.
- Both partners have an equal right to stay in a family home unless a judge decides that one of the individuals must move out.
Employment lawyers are specialists in the area of labour and employment law.
Employment law refers to the law governing non-unionized employees while labour law refers to the law governing unionized employees.
Employment lawyers can help you with contracts, wrongful dismissal, human rights, workplace harassment and many other issues.
If you have been laid off, fired or constructively dismissed then you should speak to an employment lawyer as soon as possible because you may be entitled to some compensation.
Some other things you should know about Ontario labour law:
- Cause for dismissal is usually defined as an employee’s failure to comply with their legal obligations to their employer.
- Due notice depends on many variables including status of employment, length of service and the availability of similar employment.
- Due notice protection is usually only available to employees who have been employed for 3 months.
Real estate lawyers
Real estate lawyers are specialists in the area of real estate law which includes the purchase and sale of property, mortgages, leases and land titles.
They can also help you with development projects, zoning bylaws and creating or transferring a title.
Real estate lawyers have to keep up to date on the constantly changing rules and regulations that govern the real estate industry.
You will need a real estate lawyer to assist in the purchase or sale of a home. A home purchase is often the largest that a person completes in their life so you need to make sure to review and understand all key aspects of any real estate contracts.
Some other things you should know about Ontario real estate law:
- Under most scenarios a lawyer is required for the completion or refinancing of a mortgage.
- First time home buyers qualify for the Land Transfer Tax Rebate up to a maximum of $4,000.
- Buying a house vs. buying a condo have many different rules. Condo boards set specific rules that you as a condo unit owner are bound by.
Criminal lawyers are specialists in the area of criminal law and criminal law includes offences such as theft, assault, impaired driving and murder.
Criminal lawyers can help you with bail hearings, trials and appeals.
If you are charged with a criminal offence then you should speak to a criminal lawyer as soon as possible.
Some other things you should know about Ontario criminal law:
- Bail is a court order that lets you remain in your community while your legal case is being processed through the court system.
- A bail hearing is also known as a “show cause hearing” because either the crown must “show cause” why an individual should not be released from custody or the accused much “show cause” why they should be allowed to go back into the community.
- If you cannot afford a lawyer, you should look for a pro bono lawyer and seek legal information to help you understand your rights.
Personal injury lawyers
Personal injury lawyers are specialists in the area of personal injury law.
Personal injury law includes accidents such as car accidents, slip and falls, dog bites and medical malpractice.
Personal injury lawyers can help you with insurance claims, filing a lawsuit and negotiating a settlement.
The rights to sue and have their legal claim heard in court, as well as the right to compensation from the individual who caused their injuries, whether through a lawsuit or not, are two of the most crucial liberties that injured Ontarians possess.
Some other things you should know about Ontario personal injury law:
- The value of a personal injury settlement is based more on how the injury has impacted your life (things you can’t do due to the injury) than the extent of the injury.
- Under Ontario’s no-fault accident benefit rules, your car insurance company pays for the damage to your vehicle, no matter who was actually at fault.
- Nearly all personal injury law firms in Ontario only get paid if they are successful in getting you a settlement payout.
Immigration lawyers are specialists in the area of immigration law.
Immigration law includes matters such as citizenship, visas, refugee law and deportation.
Immigration lawyers can help you with applications for permanent residency, work permits, study permits and citizenship.
For all of Canada, immigration laws are enforced by Citizenship and Immigration Canada and the Canada Border Services Agency.
Some other things you should know about Ontario immigration law:
- To become a citizen of Canada you must be a permanent resident, can speak and understand spoken English or French and know enough about Canada and what it means to be a Canadian citizen.
- You can apply for OHIP if you have lived in Ontario for 3 months and you are either a Canadian citizen/permanent resident/protected person, you have a valid 6 month work permit or your spouse of parents is a foreign worker who is eligible for OHIP.
- All children in Ontario have the right to attend school (individual must be under 18 years of age).
Disability lawyers are specialists in the area of disability law.
Disability law includes matters such as social assistance, employment insurance, discrimination and disability benefits.
Disability lawyers can help you with appeals to government programs, filing a human rights complaint and negotiating a settlement.
Some other things you should know about Ontario disability law:
- In Ontario, there is a law that states that any person with a disability has the right to equal treatment, which includes access to goods, services and facilities.
- The Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) is a social assistance program that helps low-income people who have a disability.
- A “disabled person” is defined as someone who has a substantial mental or physical impairment that is continuous or recurrent, and is expected to last one year or more AND the impairment directly reduces your ability to work, care for yourself or take part in your community AND the impairment has been verified by an approved health care professional.
Once you’ve narrowed down the type of lawyer and legal aid services that you need, it is time to decide on the type of law firm to approach for legal advice.
How do I find the best lawyer for the right price?
Choosing a good lawyer can be a challenge and since it is an expensive service that is quite lucrative for individual lawyers – there are many advertisements and competition to provide legal services in Ontario.
To help you cut through the noise and identify a good lawyer vs. a bad lawyer, we’ve compiled 10 tips to select the right legal counsel.
Below are 10 things you should do before hiring a lawyer in Ontario.
1) Speak to a lawyer in any field if they are in your personal network
If you have a trusted family member or friend who happens to be a lawyer, speak with them first.
A legal professional will be able to refer you to a specialist in different legal field and provide legal advice to help you understand the legal process that you are entering.
For example, a real estate lawyer likely has a connection to a personal injury lawyer through either their law schooling or the law society of Ontario.
2) Know what your budget is
Having an understanding of your budget before approaching a law firm is a good idea because it will help both you and the prospective lawyer understand your situation.
If you can’t hire the best lawyer for your case, you might be able to get a junior lawyer or associate at that law firm to lead your case for a reduced rate.
Remember, just because a lawyer charges a high rate, doesn’t mean they are a good fit. Similarly, just because a lawyer is affordable does not mean their services are worse than others.
Having your budget figured out allows you to spend time looking for the BEST lawyer, not the most expensive one.
3) Pick a lawyer or law firm that specializes in the type of legal proceeding you are involved in
Obviously, no one is going to hire a personal injury lawyer to help them get a mortgage, they are going to get a real estate lawyer.
That being said, it is important to understand that within real estate law there are many specialized situations such as buying a condo, selling vacant land, getting a permit or incorporating a real estate investment fund.
So, make sure you identify your specific need and then seek out legal help from an expert in that specialization.
4) Make sure the law firm or lawyer is active in their area of practice
Most of the time, good lawyers are active within their legal community and law society.
Some start advocacy groups, provide pro bono legal services and promote access to fair legal advice.
Ask a prospect if they participate in their law school society or have published any books. Inquire what they do outside of their practice to keep them on top of all the latest developments in their area of expertise.
5) Be wary of anyone who makes you a promise or guarantee
Just like doctors and investment advisors – no good lawyers like to make promises.
Law is a complex field and cases are subjective. Any lawyer making you an outright promise that they will win your case or get you money should be avoided.
Finally, most lawyers offer a free consultation in order to understand your unique issues. Try an avoid anyone who wants you to pay upfront for legal help instead of offering a free consultation.
6) Look for verified reviews or accredited recommendations
The Law Society of Ontario has a database of lawyers that operate in Ontario.
Check out their website if you are looking for a lawyer or paralegal and give them a call at 1-800-668-7380 if you feel the need to confirm the person you are thinking of hiring is a licensed legal professional.
Also, see if the law firm is rated on Google. Many law firms will ask their clients to leave them a review on Google. Just be sure to do some extra investigating and not to hire lawyers and paralegals based solely on their Google reviews since they can be biased at times.
7) Meet with a prospective lawyer virtually or in person
There is no better way to get a sense of a person than by connecting with them in person. If you can’t connect in person, a video conference can substitute.
There is a good chance that your legal case will take a long time to resolve and that you will be in contact with your lawyer often to review legal documents, gather evidence and discuss your case.
If you get a bad feeling – avoid that person or firm. Legal cases can be incredibly sensitive and you only want to hire someone who you want on your team.
8) Ask questions
On top of outlining your legal rights and giving you an overview of potential legal proceedings, a good lawyer will answer all of the questions you have about what comes next in your case.
The more questions you ask, the better armed you will be for the unknowns that come up. You and your legal representation will be a stronger force if both parties are knowledgeable on the issues at hand and the possible outcomes of your case.
9) Take your time
Oftentimes when someone is seeking legal aid that person has just had a large life event and feels like they need urgent help.
Even though that may be true, you will only make matters worse if you choose the wrong lawyer to represent you.
Take your time, do your homework and only hire someone who you feel that you can trust.
10) Avoid anyone with obnoxious advertising
This might seem obvious but anyone calling themselves “Judge Dread” or “The Pitbull” probably does not care about maintaining a serious professional reputation.
Law firms with aggressive and obnoxious advertising care more about marketing and getting new clients than they do about treating each client properly and other legal professionals with respect.
Your legal representation will become an extension of you so don’t compound your legal problems by hiring an overly aggressive and under trained lawyer.
The best local lawyers and law firms in Ontario
Here is our list of the best local lawyers and law firms in Ontario: