Trial Counsel for Law Firms

Trial Costs

Costs Generally

Costs after trial requires an application of rule 57.07(1) of the Rules of Civil Procedure.  The starting point is to think big picture and what is reasonable for the particular case and outcome.  Then delve into the rule 57.07(1) factors.

Time spent is but one factor as time and value are different concepts.  The Court of Appeal has had some interesting things to say on the billable hour, for example in Bank of Nova Scotia v. Diemer at paragraph 36 onwards.

The Risks of Trial

A law firm going to trial must consider the following risks:

  1. Resources – legal fees, disbursements and HST (in other words, time and money);
  2. Costs – the possibility of having to pay the other side’s costs; and
  3. Merits – The likelihood of success or failure.

Note that resources and costs have nothing to do with the merits.

1. Resources

In terms of resources, a firm must be able to go to trial.  Trial is disruptive, especially if you have not been to trial before to learn how to be efficient in preparing and conducting trials.  The simplest reason to retain trial counsel is based on available resources.  Depending on the circumstances, trial counsel’s fees can be a disbursement and an insurable disbursement at that.

2. Costs

There is an easy solution to the risk of paying the other side’s costs: obtain costs insurance aka After the Event (ATE) insurance so that one’s client is not exposed to adverse costs.  Doing so enhances bargaining power by changing the risk of trial and as a result improves results.

ATE is available in Ontario in civil and commercial cases.

3. Merits

The merits of a case affect the potential gain and resources to put into a matter as well as the costs exposure.  Obviously, a case with good merit is one reason to go to trial if settlement discussions and mediation aren’t productive.

Trial Costs and Contingency Fees

Contingency fee retainer agreements do not impact negatively on costs.  Pursuant to section 21.1. of the Solicitors Act, a Court may not reduce costs just because there is a contingency fee retainer agreement.

Where Costs Exceed Damages

Due to the nature of litigation being slow and expensive, especially in the context of jury trials, there are times when costs can exceed damages.  Minor MVA trials, for example, can have damages under $100,000 with costs over $100,000.  Depending on the retainer arrangement, these costs may be recoverable by a law firm who has invested significant time and money into the case.

This article is courtesy of the Ontario Civil Trial Manual

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This manual is trial information, not trial legal advice.

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