In most Canadian law schools, students pick their own courses based on their areas of interest in the second year of study. Although all Canadian lawyers who have been admitted to the bar can practice in any field of law, you should only go for lawyers in the practice area specialties relevant to your cases. These practice areas range from corporate law to environmental law, from personal injury law to immigration law, from sports law to criminal law, from property law to family law, and from constitutional law to employment law, and tens of others in between.
In Ottawa, law students can either do 10-month articling or complete the Law Society of Ontario’s Law Practice Program (LPP) before licensing. In articling, most law students join law firms in their area of interest, meaning they will have honed important skills and experience by the time they sit the Barrister and Solicitor examination for admission to the Law Society of Ontario.
Other than specialization in the relevant practice area, other important tips when picking between lawyers include:
- Consider membership to relevant lawyer associations. These include the Toronto Lawyers Association, the Ontario Trial Lawyers Association, and the Women’s Law Association of Ontario. These organizations have strict codes of ethics that lawyers have to abide by.
- Take opportunity of the free initial consultation most lawyers give to gauge the lawyer’s competencies. Ask about such things as major cases won, number of years in practice, and the percentage of caseload dedicated to handling your type of legal issue.
- A good lawyer is one who carries malpractice insurance. This ensures you are covered in case of malpractice.
- Cost considerations should be secondary if you want the best lawyer. You should, however, consider the billing method vis-à-vis your particular legal problem as this will greatly determine how much you have to part with. You should also consider if there are additional fees such as postage, copy, and filing fees.
- You could get tips on good lawyers from the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, from friends/relatives, and from other lawyers that you may have.
- Do a background check on your lawyer and contact the relevant disciplinary agency to confirm if the lawyer is in good standing.
Choosing the Best Personal Injury Lawyer
Under Canadian law, you are entitled to compensation should you be injured, physically or psychologically, as a result of negligence in the part of another person, a government agency, a company, or any other entity. The injury could be as a result of a slip and fall accident, medical malpractice, incorrect dosing of prescriptions, animal bites, and automobile accidents, among many others.
You could represent yourself in a personal injury claim, but hiring personal injury lawyers in Toronto gives you much-needed experience and skills (since it is your responsibility to prove that the at-fault party did not comply with acceptable standards or behaviour, leading to the injury). It also allows you to recuperate from your injuries.
Canada has Worker’s Compensation laws that protect injured employees by providing them with fixed monetary awards. Personal injury lawyers represent clients in such cases to ensure they get the most from the award and if need be, to represent the clients in court. The coverage could be under the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act (WSIA), the business may take a group disability cover, or you could take an individual disability cover.
A long term disability lawyer also helps clients file for short-term or long-term disability insurance benefits. In Canada, it is mandatory that businesses carry this insurance for clients in case they suffer short-term or long-term disability. A lawyer also helps clients in case the disability claim ends up in court such as if the insurance company underpays or fails to pay.
Choosing the Best Criminal Lawyer
The Canadian Criminal Code codifies most criminal offences and procedures. If you are charged with an offence that falls within the Criminal Code or the other criminal laws that do not make part of the code such as the Firearms Act, the Contraventions Act, the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Food and Drugs Act, the Canada Evidence Act, and the Youth Criminal Justice Act, you face jail time or hefty fines.
You should hire a criminal defence lawyer to represent you, especially in case of indictable offences. A lawyer will poke holes on the prosecutor’s case to ensure the case is not proven beyond reasonable doubt. If you are at fault, a lawyer will argue that you were not in the right state of mind (Mens rea). He/she will take care of all legal proceedings which include bail, preliminary inquiry, trial, sentencing, and appeal.
Picking between criminal defence lawyers is not easy. Given the importance of hiring the right lawyer, below are tips to help you.
- Go for an experienced lawyer: An experienced lawyer will have the right connections in the justice system, something that often comes in handy.
- Ensure the lawyer is able to dedicate enough time to your case: He/she should not have a heavy caseload. Go for a lawyer from an established law firm as this ensures you benefit from such resources as paralegals and libraries.
- The lawyer should specialize in the relevant field: Criminal offences range from sex to theft crimes, from embezzlement to drug crimes, from domestic violence to gun crimes, from murder and DUI, and many other crimes.
Choosing the Best Immigration Lawyer
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), under the mandate of the Department of Citizenship and Immigration Act, allows for the immigration of thousands of foreign nationals into Canada each year, primarily as a way of strengthening Canada’s economic, social and cultural prosperity.
IRCC, to safeguard the safety and security of Canadians, has a tough admissibility policy that ensures only those who deserve to get into the country do so. Given the complexity of the process, you should hire an immigration professional to guide you. This could be an immigration lawyer or an immigration consultant. So, what is the difference between the two?
When it comes to basic immigration law services such as visa applications, immigration lawyers and consultants offer mostly the same services. However, a lawyer can represent you in a federal court in complicated cases while a consultant cannot.
While lawyers are required to have studied in a law school for 3 years and to have 10 months of articling before writing the bar exam, consultants only need to do a 6 to 12 month course on immigration law and to write a national exam.
Although consultants tend to charge slightly less than lawyers, this varies from one lawyer/consultant to the next. In any case, don’t let cost considerations blind you – your future in Canada depends on who you pick.
Hiring a lawyer is the best option because you do not have to change professionals in case of claims and appeals. However, you should only hire an immigration lawyer in Toronto who has helped people coming from your country because he/she will have specialized experience.
Choosing the Best Business Lawyer
Every business needs legal representation from time to time. A lawyer can be an asset for your business or a huge liability – you have to make the right choice. So, how do you pick the best corporate lawyer in Toronto?
Different lawyers have different practice areas and you should, therefore, pick the one in the relevant areas. The practice areas range from Franchising Law to Industrial Law, from Joint Ventures to Mergers and Acquisitions, from Privatization Law to corporate taxation, and from contract law to distributorship law, and everything in between.
Your lawyer should be interested in what you do. Even without legal specialization, the lawyer should express a willingness to learn about your market and your niche. Masterly of your market, niche, and strategy ensure he/she catches problems before they exacerbate and takes care of issues in good time.
It is important you understand when you need a business lawyer. If you can, you should have a long-standing relationship with a business lawyer as this ensures the business grows smoothly. Even when you are contracting a lawyer from time to time, go for a long-standing relationship when making major business moves like forming a partnership, seeking money from investors, entering into a lease, and putting a major product in the market that may cause liability issues.
The best business lawyer is one who is part of a law firm. A law firm has the necessary resources, including associate lawyers and paralegals, to handle your case. You should particularly pick a large law firm if you have a complex case.
The lawyer you go for should offer more than legal representation. It is not uncommon for Toronto lawyers to organize networking opportunities in the form of live events and webinars. Some are members of trade associations that can be beneficial to your business. A good lawyer could introduce you to other clients and potential customers and strategic partners.
Finally, ensure the lawyer is based near Toronto. It will be cheaper and more convenient to have a lawyer who has an office you can visit any time and vice versa.