Frequently Asked Questions
About the Law Society of Alberta
1. What is the role of the Law Society of Alberta?
The Law Society's mission is to serve the public interest by promoting a high standard of legal services and professional conduct through the governance and regulation of an independent legal profession.
The Law Society of Alberta is a self-governing association of all practising lawyers in Alberta and has been regulating the legal profession since 1907. The Law Society of Alberta derives its authority from the Legal Profession Act of Alberta, and is financed and maintained by Alberta lawyers at no cost to the public.
The Law Society of Alberta sets out standards through Rules and a Code of Conduct.
2. Who belongs to the Law Society of Alberta?
Lawyers seeking to practise law in Alberta are required to become admitted to the Alberta bar, and become members of the Law Society of Alberta.
Obtaining the Services of a Lawyer
1. When do I need to see a lawyer?
You would likely want to consult a lawyer if you:
- Are purchasing a home or a business
- Want to draft a will
- Want to incorporate
- Want a partnership contract
- Are hiring or firing employees
- Are buying or selling a warehouse or office space
- Want to buy or sell a franchise
- Are signing or distributing contracts and permits
- Are considering ways to structure a company
- Are considering interprovincial trade
- Are being sued by someone, or
- Are charged with a criminal offence
2. What legal services can a lawyer provide?
Lawyers are able to do many things and engage in a wide range of activities in order to meet their particular client’s needs, but they also have ethical obligations and specific obligations to clients. A lawyer’s principal responsibility is to see that each client obtains the benefit of his or her legal rights and is aware of his or her legal obligations. In approaching this duty, lawyers have three fundamental obligations. Lawyers must:
- Serve clients competently
- Be completely loyal to clients
- Keep client communications confidential
In addition to the three fundamental obligations described above, lawyers are also required to provide a certain quality of service. The Law Society of Alberta’s Code of Conduct includes descriptions of the services lawyers should provide.
The services lawyers can provide include:
- Answering legal questions
- Helping clients find an answer
- Appearing in court on a client’s behalf
- Mediating disputes
- Counseling clients
- Planning estates and administering wills
- Drafting contracts
- Structuring private deals
- Lobbying government to change laws
- Drafting legislation
- Writing letters and opinions
- Taking steps to avoid litigation
- Negotiating settlements
- Providing advice about clients’ legal problems and possible outcomes
3. How can I determine my lawyer’s practicing status?
You can check your lawyer’s status with the Lawyer Directory service. 4. What if I cannot afford a lawyer?
If you cannot afford a lawyer, you may be able to find one who is paid through a legal aid service or will help you free of charge. If you qualify for legal aid (e.g., do not have enough money of your own to pay the lawyer), a legal aid office may provide a staff lawyer or pay a private lawyer to help you. Even if you do not qualify for legal aid, the legal aid offices may be able to give you advice or information about where to get help. Most legal aid offices have brochures describing their services in more detail.
[Back to top]
Twelve Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Lawyer
On Knowledge, Skill and Experience
- How long have you been in practice? How many matters like mine have you handled before?
- How long have you practiced at this particular firm?
- In what areas of law do you practise?
- Are you a partner or an associate?
- How much of your practice is devoted to my particular problem area?
On Time and Accessibility
- Do you have enough time to deal with my problem quickly?
- How quickly can I expect resolution?
- When can we meet?
- How do you charge for your services?
- Approximately how much will your services cost me in total?
- Do you provide your clients with a detailed written statement of fees?
- Do you charge anything for the first meeting?
[Back to top]
1. What if I have a dispute with my lawyer concerning fees?
If you think that your bill is not reasonable, you should first discuss it with your lawyer. Since many problems with bills are due to genuine misunderstandings about the work done or about how the bill was to be calculated, it is always best to discuss the bill with your lawyer. Rarely will a lawyer intentionally try to charge you more than what you agreed.
If this does not prove satisfactory, consider having it reviewed in the courts. The Law Society's Complaints Department does not assist with fee disputes. Our fee mediation process is available in very limited circumstances. We refer fee disputes to the Taxation Department at the Court of Queen’s Bench.
2. What do I do if my lawyer does not return phone calls or update me on the status of my file?
Lawyers are obligated to keep clients informed about their file in a reasonable and timely fashion, but are not expected to be available to you at any given moment. There is an established legal process for every kind of matter, so it is wise to let that process occur and communicate with your lawyer throughout. If you have concerns, raise them.
Co-operation between client and lawyer is essential for a successful outcome. The client should be prepared to listen to his or her lawyer carefully – good and bad advice – and write out detailed instructions. Be honest. If you feel uninformed, ask your lawyer about ways to enhance communication without incurring significant costs associated with that time. Do not harass your lawyer. You are entering into a working relationship that requires both parties to act responsibly.
3. What do I do if I suspect that my lawyer isn’t licensed to practise law?
If you suspect that someone who is representing you as a lawyer is not qualified to do so, you are encouraged to report the details to the Law Society of Alberta.
[Back to top]
Source: Fitzgerald, Maureen F.; So You Think You Need a Lawyer, McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 1998