How It Works
- Essential Things to Know About Online Law
I don't provide conventional legal representation like most other lawyers. If you hire me, you still directly manage your case as a self-represented individual - but with my online assessment, advice and guidance. I don't go on-record with the court or tribunal for you, and all our communications will be conducted by email (documents by fax or scan). Providing services in this fashion is sometimes called 'online coaching', but more formally it's considered a type of 'limited scope retainer' or 'unbundled' legal service (that's what the Law Society calls it).
There are three main types of services that I provide:
- Pre-Litigation Assessment
A pre-litigation assessment means me investigating, assessing and explaining - in detail - the merits of your litigation case to you, and advising what remedial options you have for handling it. It includes discussion between us to be sure that you understand my assessment and that we've got everything right. A typical pre-litigation assessment includes:
- email discussion and document review to determine and explain the key factual, legal and procedural issues of your case
- discussion and identification of available evidence for and against your case
- identification of available procedures by which remedies may be sought
- explanation of any impending limitation period issues
- explanation of any major expenses involved in pursuing the matter, such as expert report fees, court fees, etc
- my opinion on the merits of your case, and recommendations on how to proceed
A pre-litigation assessment ensures that any decisions we make in the conduct of the case are made on an informed basis. I won't take a case on, or even answer any significant questions on it, until I have done one. If you hire me it's my responsibility to understand the case fully and to advise you competently, and I take that that responsibility seriously.
- Litigation Guidance
If - after a positive pre-litigation assessment - you decide that you want to advance or contest legal proceedings, then I can also provide you with litigation guidance through the life of that proceeding (appeals, reconsiderations, reviews and new trials are separate proceedings).
Litigation guidance includes the following services:
- 24-7 on-call email consultation. I return most client emails within 24 hours (weekends and holidays excepted), and if extensive work is required I will give you a firm turn-around date for it's completion
- pro-active tactical planning, advice and recommendations throughout the conduct of the proceeding
- review, analysis and explanation of letters and documents received
- drafting of the content of letters and documents to be sent (you still have to physically prepare and deliver/serve them, with my guidance on how to do that)
- consideration of settlement oppourtunities at all stage of the case
- Non-Litigation Advice
Most of the areas of law that I practice involve actual or potential litigation of some kind, but that is not always the case. Sometimes people just want to know how to handle a sticky situation or otherwise just want to know what my opinion is on something. If the legal area is within my competence and I think I can assist you with it, I can provide such advice. Write me and we can discuss it.
BUT! (big "but" here), this is the internet, a world where people want instant (and free) gratification. Lots (and lots) of people trip over my website while browsing and write me on impulse asking short, particular questions about a specific legal point involved in their case that they think is crucial. Typically these emails lack any of the necessary background information that I need to fully understand and advise on the case. Any answers I could give to such questions would have to be so heavily qualified and conditioned with 'if's, 'maybe's and 'sometime's that they would be both useless, and risky to rely on. If you insist on approaching your important legal situation in such a haphazard manner I will either decline to advise you, or charge a minimum $100 fee (prepaid) (for which you will get full value in 'if's, 'maybe's and 'sometime's). Trust me, you are much better off taking advantage of my full knowledge and experience by commissioning proper "non-litigation advice or (more usually) "a full "pre-litigation assessment (explained above).
- Mandatory ID Information
The Law Society has a rule that a lawyer cannot provide legal services to a client without the lawyer knowing the client's name, address, phone number, occupation and having confirmation that they are over 18: By-Law 7.1, Part III: Client Identification and Verification]. Identification is also necessary to avoid the rare conflict of interest situation arising, such as where I may have already advised other parties involved in your case.
In the internet age people are understandably anxious about giving out personal information, but rest assured that if you give me such information it is only used for identification, it is not sent to the Law Society and it remains confidential with me - even if you do not hire me. If it makes you feel more secure, you can confirm my status as a licensed and practicing Ontario lawyer through the Law Society of Upper Canada:
Law Society of Upper Canada Lawyer Directory
(just type in my name: "Simon Shields")
- Fact Summary
So now let's get to your case. I need a concise, organized and chronological statement of your fact situation so that I can assess a suitable fee quote for my services. Please limit this to two pages or less and do not send any documents until I specifically request them. If you hire me I will of course have further information and document requests at that time.
What I need from you at this early stage is a basic history of the events of the case so that I can get a rough idea of it's complexity and what's at stake for you. If you feel an urge to explain extensively and to justify your actions in the situation, please try to resist it at this early stage. We'll have lots of oppourtunity to talk about those things once I'm retained.
- Fee Quote and Payment
Within 48 hours of getting the information I need, I will write back with a fee quote for my initial services (usually a pre-litigation assessment), and a firm time commitment as to how long after payment it will take me to provide it.
If you have already hired me for a pre-litigation assessment and the result is positive (ie. that your case has enough merit to proceed), then at that time I will provide a firm, flat-rate fee quote for litigation guidance through the proceeding. If the case involves extensive civil litigation I usually provide fee quotes that are staged by the natural steps of the litigation (eg. pleadings, pre-trial/pre-hearing, motions, trial/hearing, etc) so that if the case settles or ends early you are not overpaying. However, 'flat-rate' means that the fee does not go up or down if the case turns out to require more or less work than I thought when I quoted for it.
My fee quotes are flat-rate, with no additional charges and they are HST-free. Terms are pre-payment, and I will not make any exceptions to that policy. That is, I will not provide legal services or advice until I am paid first. Payment is either by email money transfer (preferred) or Paypal.
Have you read and understood the above Instructions?________________________________________________________________
Are you ready to request a no-obligation fee quote for online legal services?
Simon Shields, LLB
- If you don't hear from me within two business days, check your spam filter. If necessary, list my email address as exempt from your spam filter.
- All communications are by email unless otherwise arranged.
- All communications between us for the purpose of obtaining legal advice are subject to solicitor-client privilege and confidentiality, even if you do not hire me.