03.09.2017 07:58 AM

I hate greedy lawyers

Crass, misleading advertising.  Lousy advice and representation.  Disgusting, usurious fees.

These are some of the things that have helped to destroy the reputation of trial lawyers – even among those of us who used to be trial lawyers.  I’ve written about this many times before.

For months, the Toronto Star’s Michele Henry and Kenyon Wallace have been hammering ambulance-chasing, bottom-feeding members of the “personal injury bar” (that’s what they call themselves, without irony).  They have done an amazing job, and deserve a Michener nomination for it.

This morning, they revealed this:

Meanwhile, at Queen’s Park, Liberal MPP Mike Colle (Eglinton-Lawrence), inspired in part by the Star’s investigation, tabled a private member’s bill calling for all contingency fees to be capped at 15 per cent of the settlements awarded to accident victims.

Titled the Personal Injury and Accident Victims Protection Act, the bill requires contingency fee agreements to state clearly how lawyers will get paid, calls for a ban on lawyer referral fees, and makes all advertising by personal injury lawyers subject to pre-approval by the Law Society of Upper Canada. In addition, clients who have signed up with a personal injury lawyer would be granted a 10-day cooling-off period in which to cancel their agreement. The Law Society of Upper Canada recently made a series of recommendations regarding the same subject.

Private member’s bills rarely become law but Colle said the idea is to raise awareness of issues he is hearing about from accident victims and “put heat on the government to do something in this area.”

“For these accident victims who have been essentially hit twice, I’m trying to protect them,” Colle said.

Hit Twice is right. Various PC and Liberal MPPs have been musing about this kind of move for a while, but it has taken Mike Colle – who, in my experience, has guts to spare and isn’t afraid of the Greedy Lawyer Lobby – to do what Liberal, PC and/or NDP governments should have done long ago.

I’m a lawyer, and I’m fed up with innocent accident victims getting hit twice. And I’m fed up with the appalling greed that has helped to destroy the reputation of a once-great profession.

Want to get yourselves (re)elected, political parties? This is the kind of populist stuff that’ll do it.  Every time.




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    Derek Pearce says:

    I have a friend who makes me laugh every time we watch TV together– when the commercial comes on he chimes overtop “Dimebag and Diiiimmmebag”

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    Tim Sullivan says:

    Here’s the solution to some of what you complain about:

    1) Change the Solicitors Act to something more 21st C. References to it are obsolete or, literally, from another country and not applicable to the practice of law in Ontario — or Canada.
    2) Make the contingency fee retainer shorter and more appropriate to injury claimants.
    3) Capping fees at a certain percentage does nothing for anyone. The practice has been a top percentage at about 33%. The restriction on taking costs sometimes does not make sense. You can have costs exceed damages and the client is entitled to, and sues for damages. It would be a windfall for the client to recover costs and only permit the lawyer a portion of the damages. Costs are to supplement what the client ultimately pays the lawyer. Costs are seldom (they are not structured to be) what the client pays a lawyer.

    There are other regulatory things that can be addressed. maybe allow a complaint to the Law Society so that bad conduct can be corrected, not really punished. When advertising runs afoul of the rules, we should not have to impose the full strength of the regulator. A letter saying “You can’t say you specialize in your advertising if you are not certified”.

    The regulator can also enforce the referral rules and only pay a referral fee to another lawyer from the referred lawyer’s share in the referring lawyer does not practice in that area of law.

    One other thing that bugs me.

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    Ronald O'Dowd says:


    Thought of you tonight. Spoke to an acquaintance lined up with one of the crème de la crème large law firms whose counterpart is known for running up the bill first, and settling at the last possible moment just before the court hearing…

    Told her to opt for judicial mediation instead. That should wipe away a few smug smiles on the faces of distinguished Bar members.

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    Charlotte Forbes says:

    I wish I had had a ten-day cooling-off period with my lawyer. I was hit by a car and signed my lawyer’s documents, without explanation or copies of the contracts, while I was on my way out of the hospital. I also wish that the collection had been capped. In Vancouver, BC: After years’ worth of neglect, my lawyer wanted me to lie about the extent of my injuries suffered. In the end, I terminated the agreement and negotiated a settlement directly with my claims adjuster for $700,000. I was unable to find another lawyer who was willing to “just settle” the claim. The cost to my former law firm? The full contingency fee. All they did was ignore me and set me up with 2 IMEs. It’s appalling that such awful practices are allowed to proceed as such because of the whole contingency fee agreement. I’m sure that there are lawyers out there who act diligently, ethically, and competently. But for those who don’t? It can be an absurdly unfair system. Lawyers know the law better than laypeople and are more prone to taking advantage of disabled, stressed, or injured individuals. Most people aren’t emotionally prepped to deal with the misfortunes of a serious accident.

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