O’BRIEN v DE VILLARS JONES, 2015 ABQB 535
10.10: Time limitation on reviewing retainer agreements and charges
10.2: Payment for lawyer’s services and contents of lawyer’s account
13.5: Variation of time periods
The Applicant law firm applied to have a Review Officer’s Decision reviewed. At the client-initiated Appointment for Review, the Review Officer refused to review two of three accounts as they were outside of the six month review period pursuant to Rule 10.10(2). The Applicant firm then served the client with an Appointment for Review, arguing that the accounts were proper.
Master Wacowich initially considered whether the accounts were interim or final, as Rule 10.10(2) only applies to final accounts. Master Wacowich held that the parties entered into a verbal retainer agreement to bill for work as it was provided. Master Wacowich reviewed Rule 10.2(1) which outlines factors that may permit a lawyer to adjust legal costs on accounts throughout the retainer if the retainer agreement allows for it, and determined that the Rule did not apply. Master Wacowich concluded that the accounts were final.
Master Wacowich also considered the Applicant law firm’s argument that the six month limitation period in Rule 10.10(2) should be extended. Master Wacowich considered Rule 13.5(1), which allows for variation of time periods. Master Wacowich noted that the reason a lawyer has an account reviewed is different from the reason a client has an account reviewed. Master Wacowich ultimately concluded that, even though the wording in Rule 10.10(2) has changed to include both client-initiated and lawyer-initiated account review, the time for the review of the two accounts that were outside the limitation date should be extended in this case. Master Wacowich noted that it is poor policy to force counsel to sue their client because they cannot collect an account when the review process is much less complicated.View CanLII Details