6.14: Appeal from master’s judgment or order
10.10: Time limitation on reviewing retainer agreements and charges
10.9: Reasonableness of retainer agreements and charges subject to review

Case Summary

This was an Appeal of a Master’s Decision to grant a lawyer’s Application to extend time for review under Rule 10.10 (2). Browne J. noted that the current standard for the admission of evidence on review of a Master’s Decision is that the evidence is “relevant and material”. The Appellant sought to adduce evidence that was not relevant to the Appeal and the Court did not consider it.

At the lawyer’s request, the Master had ordered a review hearing under Rule 10.10 (2). At the hearing, the Reviewing Officer raised a question about whether Rule 10.10(2) applied to the lawyer’s requests for review and directed the Parties to relevant memoranda under the equivalent former Rule. The Review Hearing was adjourned to afford the Appellant, the Sawridge Band, time to Appeal the Master’s Decision. On Appeal, the Respondent argued that the Application under Rule 10.10(2) was unnecessary as the Rule does not apply to lawyer-initiated reviews of accounts; however, it was taken as a precautionary step. The Respondent argued that the account should be reviewed before the Review Officer and questions could be referred to the Court as necessary. The Appellant argued that the Respondent was out of time, and the Application to collect on the outstanding accounts should be brought by way of Statement of Claim.

The Court noted that Rule 10.10 (2) does not distinguish between reviews of fee accounts initiated by clients and those initiated by lawyers. However, “the reasons a lawyer initiates a review are fundamentally different from the reasons that a client initiates a review”. The Court found that the Rule, the interpretation memos under the previous Rule, and common sense dictate that Rule 10.10 (2) applies only to reviews of lawyers’ charges initiated by a client, and not to lawyer-initiated reviews. In the context of a lawyer-initiated review, after 6 months an application is unnecessary and the Parties can simply proceed to Review.

Browne J. added that where a lawyer initiates a review and the client disputes liability, the appropriate procedure is to allow the lawyer to proceed to Review. If necessary, the Review Officer can adjourn and refer issues to the Court for determination.

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