Family law certificate billing guidelines
LAA periodically reviews lawyers’ accounts and timesheets – both before and after LAA pays a lawyer’s account – to ensure the lawyer has complied with LAA policies and the LAA Tariff, and to ensure a lawyer has not expended an excessive or unjustifiable amount of time on the client’s matter. This document is intended to assist counsel representing clients on family law certificates as they prepare these timesheets and invoices by making LAA’s expectations clear.
Guideline hours for common steps
LAA recognizes that every file is different, and there is no set amount of time needed to perform any given task for a client. To help counsel better understand LAA’s expectations, however, LAA has prepared the following table of common steps on a family law certificate, along with guidelines for how long LAA expects it will take most lawyers to complete these steps.
If a certificate lawyer exceeds the guideline hours for one of these steps, then the lawyer should be prepared to explain why additional time was required.
- Basic correspondence with a client, including sending an email or reviewing an email sent by the client: 0.1 – 0.2
- Drafting a notice to disclose or a notice of motion on a non-chambers application: 0.3
- Drafting a notice of motion on a regular chambers application: 0.3 – 0.5
- Drafting a statement of claim: 0.5
- Drafting a request for divorce: 0.5
- Drafting an order: 0.5 – 1.0
In addition, counsel should be prepared to explain why any one document that the lawyer filed in court required more than two hours to draft or prepare.
If counsel is unable to justify the amount of time taken in relation to a particular step on the client’s matter, then LAA may disallow what it determines to have been excessive or unjustifiable steps, in accordance with LAA policy.
The Tariff’s file opening fee and file closing fee already compensate counsel for some steps and certain routine administrative matters. As a result, in general, LAA will not reimburse certificate counsel for the following steps or types of work:
- Preparing memos to place on the client’s file.
- Telephone or email communication that is administrative or for the purposes of requesting a return call or scheduling future meetings, including:
- Leaving a voicemail for a client to arrange a meeting or to request a return phone call.
- Sending an email to a client to arrange a meeting or to request a phone call.
- Listening to a voicemail from a client, or reviewing an email from a client, where the client requests a meeting or asks to schedule a phone call.
- Forwarding copies of a third party’s correspondence to the client or to anyone else.
- Steps taken by the lawyer’s paralegal or a legal assistant, which are considered non-billable overhead that the lawyer cannot invoice at the hourly tariff rate.
- Instructing the lawyer’s office staff in relation to the client’s file.
- Routine clerical or administrative tasks, such as sending a fax or preparing a pleadings binder.
- Filing documents at the courthouse, although court runner fees may be charged as an ordinary disbursement.
- Meeting with another lawyer at the same firm to take instructions or get direction on a file.
- Duplicative steps or actions taken by more than one lawyer. Please also keep in mind the rules in LAA policy about delegating work to lawyers who are not named on the certificate.
- Communicating with Legal Aid Alberta about the client’s matter.
- Preparing or submitting accounts or invoices to LAA.
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