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First year associate salary - Family/Estates law in Toronto

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17 minutes ago, QuincyWagstaff said:

No. Just No. 

The OP is asking about Family Law. Are you asserting that most family lawyers, unless they are at a large firm, don't have billable targets or bill by the hour? 

 

Am I being punked?

Right and my comment was Moreso my findings in general, but that they should also speak to a family lawyer to get more specific info. Was not advocating one way or another as to the payment structures for family lawyers. 

Dont get so worked up by the interwebs and those with different experiences. The law and the billing structures are vastly different and various shades of grey. 

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8 minutes ago, pzabbythesecond said:

How would a contingency fee even work in family law? What is a "win"? (Note, this may be a stupid question; I haven't taken family law).

Here is how (not) to do it. 

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1 minute ago, Mycousinsteve said:

Right and my comment was Moreso my findings in general, but that they should also speak to a family lawyer to get more specific info. Was not advocating one way or another as to the payment structures for family lawyers. 

 Dont get so worked up by the interwebs and those with different experiences. The law and the billing structures are vastly different and various shades of grey. 

Even alternative billing structures should be keeping track of work done in some way as a matter of practice. It is not uncommon for clients to be unhappy with a lawyers' bill and request a bill be reviewed.

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I understand that a lot of personal injury firms view accurate docketing as merely "counsel of perfection".

As an insurance-side firm, I am advised that we find this and everything else they stand for with contempt.

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16 hours ago, pzabbythesecond said:

How would a contingency fee even work in family law? What is a "win"? (Note, this may be a stupid question; I haven't taken family law).

The Solicitors Act expressly prohibits contingency fee agreements in family law matters.  See post above.

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19 hours ago, Mycousinsteve said:

Yeah so the difference here is my firm exclusively works on cotingency. Litigation work so “Billables” isn’t a thing for me nor my friends also in litigation. If I was at a national firm or doing solicitor work than I could see what you’re referring to. 

 

18 hours ago, Mycousinsteve said:

Yeah sorry no it’s not unless you’re on Bay or a similar sized firm and/or doing solicitor work. Billables aren’t a thing across the board, especially when you’re at a firm which charges via contingency fee. There are no “Billables” you charge the client. The % is set at the outset of the consultation, regardless if it takes 100 hours or 3 hours of work. 

You're making it sound like billables are only a thing if you work in biglaw or do solicitor type work.

That is just plain wrong and massively misinformed.

Outside of biglaw, compensation structures broadly come in three ways:

  1. Pure salary, with a bonus at the end of the year, depending on your performance;
  2. Base salary plus fee split. 
  3. Pure fee-split, where you eat what you kill. 50%+ split is common, if not higher.

OP, if they are offering you a salary, I would push for a bonus (unless you know that the firm is doing low end stuff and there is really no bonus to be had at the end of the year).

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22 hours ago, pzabbythesecond said:

How would a contingency fee even work in family law? What is a "win"? (Note, this may be a stupid question; I haven't taken family law).

There would not be contingency fees like there are in Personal Injury. But it is fairly common to have a spouse who has no income, because they don't work, but there is 100's of thousands of dollars in equity tied up in their home that they are entitled to. Many family lawyer will carry their clients, either wholly or in part, until they can get their equalization entitlement from the matrimonial home, and then get paid out of that.

You can also bring a motion for interim disbursement from the net proceeds of the matrimonial home held in trust to pay for legal fees. This is assuming that the matrimonial home is sold and you want to access some of the money to pay for legal fees without waiting for the case to be completed. 

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On 1/29/2019 at 3:18 PM, QuincyWagstaff said:

What type of family law? High net-worth divorces? Legal Aid child protection? 

Big difference in the business model and what the firm can pay you. Could be Big Law money, could be grinding for peanuts. 

Not big-law, nothing high end. The typical day consists of negotiating small issues, drafting correspondence, preparing pleadings for court, and once I get called, going to court for hearings and motions.

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On 1/29/2019 at 5:53 PM, Mycousinsteve said:

Yeah sorry no it’s not unless you’re on Bay or a similar sized firm and/or doing solicitor work. Billables aren’t a thing across the board, especially when you’re at a firm which charges via contingency fee. There are no “Billables” you charge the client. The % is set at the outset of the consultation, regardless if it takes 100 hours or 3 hours of work. 

It sounds like we’re coming from different types of law firms, and taking OP’s post in a different direction. In that regard, I wish them well in his/her negotiations. Certainly find out if there are “billable targets” in which case I think Churchill has more accurate info, although 40+% for all files worked does seem like a big chunk of change.

If you’re like me and there are no Billables, than try and figure out what the global figure you want to walk away with, and present your proposal respectfully and confidently, based on whatever research you have encountered. Good luck. 

We only do billables. But I don't think I could suggest anywhere near 40%. Base + a small portion of the fees I collect over a certain amount is what I am thinking. 

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On 1/29/2019 at 6:08 PM, QuincyWagstaff said:

No. Just No. 

The OP is asking about Family Law. Are you asserting that most family lawyers, unless they are at a large firm, don't have billable targets or bill by the hour? 

 

Am I being punked?

You are right. We are a very small, standard firm and I do most family law and starting to do some estate litigation and we only do billables. 

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12 hours ago, thegoodlaw said:

 

You're making it sound like billables are only a thing if you work in biglaw or do solicitor type work.

That is just plain wrong and massively misinformed.

Outside of biglaw, compensation structures broadly come in three ways:

  1. Pure salary, with a bonus at the end of the year, depending on your performance;
  2. Base salary plus fee split. 
  3. Pure fee-split, where you eat what you kill. 50%+ split is common, if not higher.

OP, if they are offering you a salary, I would push for a bonus (unless you know that the firm is doing low end stuff and there is really no bonus to be had at the end of the year).

I was going towards base salary plus fee split, keeping in mind that this has never been offered to anyone else before. But then I have also managed to move along files as an articling student that others in the firm haven't been able to as associates, so there is that.

What is the range for a fee split with a base salary? Again small firm, lower end stuff and I do mostly family and starting to do estates lit. 

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14 hours ago, shawniebear said:

There would not be contingency fees like there are in Personal Injury. But it is fairly common to have a spouse who has no income, because they don't work, but there is 100's of thousands of dollars in equity tied up in their home that they are entitled to. Many family lawyer will carry their clients, either wholly or in part, until they can get their equalization entitlement from the matrimonial home, and then get paid out of that.

You can also bring a motion for interim disbursement from the net proceeds of the matrimonial home held in trust to pay for legal fees. This is assuming that the matrimonial home is sold and you want to access some of the money to pay for legal fees without waiting for the case to be completed. 

Are you working in a Family law firm now?

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15 hours ago, shawniebear said:

There would not be contingency fees like there are in Personal Injury. But it is fairly common to have a spouse who has no income, because they don't work, but there is 100's of thousands of dollars in equity tied up in their home that they are entitled to. Many family lawyer will carry their clients, either wholly or in part, until they can get their equalization entitlement from the matrimonial home, and then get paid out of that.

You can also bring a motion for interim disbursement from the net proceeds of the matrimonial home held in trust to pay for legal fees. This is assuming that the matrimonial home is sold and you want to access some of the money to pay for legal fees without waiting for the case to be completed. 

There is a HUGE difference between waiting to send out your account, or waiting for payment until the client is in a position to pay versus contingency. 
 

As someone said in an earlier post, The Solicitor's Act prohibits family law matters from being done on contingency. And slightly off topic, but criminal or quasi-criminal matters can not be billed on a results basis. ie, no "You don't pay unless you win"

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8 hours ago, annied said:

I was going towards base salary plus fee split, keeping in mind that this has never been offered to anyone else before. But then I have also managed to move along files as an articling student that others in the firm haven't been able to as associates, so there is that.

What is the range for a fee split with a base salary? Again small firm, lower end stuff and I do mostly family and starting to do estates lit. 

It depends on the income you can realistically bring into the firm, especially as you're doing lower end stuff. 10-15% topping off of your base would be reasonable. Some firms also allow for an increase in the fee split once you hit a certain target.

In terms of the actual income you can expect at the end of the year*, I cannot answer that because I don't do family law, but I invite those who do to chime in.

 

* One of the issues with fee split is that you only get paid once the client pays. That can be an issue if you don't have diligent clients who pay on time. In low-end family law and my area (criminal), this is a recurring problem. If the client decides to not pay you, then you're SOL until you can have the fees assessed and try to recover the debt. I recently had a client die on me with a sizable receivable. I'll have to now write it off as a bad debt that I will never recover. It can suck sometimes. 

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49 minutes ago, thegoodlaw said:

It depends on the income you can realistically bring into the firm, especially as you're doing lower end stuff. 10-15% topping off of your base would be reasonable. Some firms also allow for an increase in the fee split once you hit a certain target.

In terms of the actual income you can expect at the end of the year*, I cannot answer that because I don't do family law, but I invite those who do to chime in.

 

* One of the issues with fee split is that you only get paid once the client pays. That can be an issue if you don't have diligent clients who pay on time. In low-end family law and my area (criminal), this is a recurring problem. If the client decides to not pay you, then you're SOL until you can have the fees assessed and try to recover the debt. I recently had a client die on me with a sizable receivable. I'll have to now write it off as a bad debt that I will never recover. It can suck sometimes. 

I know it is easier said than done, but we try to get a money retainer up front to avoid those situations. Admittedly I am not always good about doing it. But have only really been burned once, and I have a writ on that guys rental properties. 

My partner has done a number of files for low income individuals. Something she came up with was a pre-payment plan. She gets the client to send in weekly or monthly payments that go into trust. Once the agreed upon amount is in trust she commences the action. 

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5 hours ago, thegoodlaw said:

It depends on the income you can realistically bring into the firm, especially as you're doing lower end stuff. 10-15% topping off of your base would be reasonable. Some firms also allow for an increase in the fee split once you hit a certain target.

In terms of the actual income you can expect at the end of the year*, I cannot answer that because I don't do family law, but I invite those who do to chime in.

 

* One of the issues with fee split is that you only get paid once the client pays. That can be an issue if you don't have diligent clients who pay on time. In low-end family law and my area (criminal), this is a recurring problem. If the client decides to not pay you, then you're SOL until you can have the fees assessed and try to recover the debt. I recently had a client die on me with a sizable receivable. I'll have to now write it off as a bad debt that I will never recover. It can suck sometimes. 

Maybe I didn't understand what low-end means but we do retainers before moving on any work (at least I do) and our clients are very good at keeping zero A/R.

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1 hour ago, annied said:

Maybe I didn't understand what low-end means but we do retainers before moving on any work (at least I do) and our clients are very good at keeping zero A/R.

That is always the ideal scenario, but it doesn't always work out that way.

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