Unbundled Legal Services: Navigating Small Claims Court with Flat FeesJan 22 2024
The BC Provincial Court’s Small Claims Court is used for claims involving amounts of $5,001 to $35,000. The court process is a bit more accessible than Supreme Court to allow for individuals to represent themselves where a lawyer may be cost-prohibitive. In this post, we set out our cost-effective approach for helping you navigate Small Claims Court.
What are Unbundled Legal Services?
Unbundled legal services, also known as limited scope representation, allows for individuals to hire a lawyer for a specific task rather than full representation throughout the entire legal process. This approach provides flexibility and cost-savings, making legal assistance more accessible where traditional representation could be too costly for the claim.
With this program, our firm does not go on record with the court. What this means is that the court and the other party to the dispute (or their lawyer) will correspond with you directly and you can decide how much or how little assistance you need from us as you go.
Before commencing a lawsuit, you typically will want to send a formal demand letter. These letters can be crucial for encouraging a settlement before incurring the costs and stress of an official court case.
For claims valued up to $15,000 with minimal documents to review, we charge a flat fee of $500 plus tax. For claims valued $15,001 to $35,000, we generally charge a flat fee of $1,000 plus tax. A further adjustment may be made depending on the quantity of documents required to review and complexity of the claim.
Notice of Claim & Service
The Notice of Claim begins a lawsuit and typically comes after the demand letter has been sent and has not been responded to or has been responded to but yields an unsatisfactory outcome.
This document contains the facts of your case, the legal materials your case will rely upon, and the damages you are seeking. Once drafted and reviewed it is submitted for filing with the court registry for filing. Once a filed copy is received back it is required to be served on the opposing party.
For drafting, filing and serving a Notice of Claim we generally charge a flat fee of $1,750 plus tax. Depending on the complexity of the claim, further adjustment may be made. For just drafting the Notice of Claim, we generally charge a flat fee of $1,500 plus tax. This means that you would be in charge of filing the Notice of Claim and serving the Notice of Claim on the defendant(s).
REPLY to Claim
If you have been served a Notice of Claim, you have 14 days in which to respond to, file and serve the response to the claim against you. This document sets out the parts of the claim you acknowledge, the parts you deny, and the parts you have no position on. Further, it allows you to get your position (your side of the story) on record. There is also an opportunity to either file a counterclaim against the claimant and/or another person if you feel that other person (called Third Party) bears some or all of the liability for the claim against you.
To assist in drafting, filing and serving a Reply we generally charge a flat fee of $1,500 plus tax. Depending on the complexity of the claim, further adjustments may be made. For just drafting the Reply, we generally charge a flat fee of $1,250 plus tax. This means that you would be in charge of filing and serving the Reply on the claimant(s).
If a Reply is not filed, the claimant may proceed with obtaining a default judgement. This means that the court will give the claimant an order for what they want without the defendant getting to defend themselves. A default judgement can also be granted if the defendant does not attend a settlement conference.
To assist in drafting, filing and serving a Default Judgement we generally charge a flat fee of $750 plus tax. Depending on the complexity of the claim, further adjustments may be made. For just drafting the Default Judgement application, we generally charge a flat rate of $500. This means that you would be in charge of filing and serving the Default Judgement on the defendant(s).
Settlement Conference & Document Disclosure
Once the Reply is filed, a Settlement Conference will be held. The registry schedules the Settlement Conference and sends all parties a Notice of Settlement Conference. The registry must serve the notice at least 28 days before the Settlement Conference. Settlement Conferences will usually take place using Microsoft Teams. They are scheduled for one hour.
A Settlement Conference provides both parties the opportunity to sit with a Provincial Court judge to explore ways to settle their case without going to trial. Settlement Conferences are mandatory for most cases started by a Notice of Claim.
An important step before attending the Settlement Conference is the exchange of relevant documents between the parties. All documents must be submitted to the registry at least 14 days before the Settlement Conference and served on the other parties at least 7 days before the Settlement Conference.
For assistance in reviewing the claim, determining what documents are necessary to either prove or disprove the claim, submitting the documents to the registry and serving the documents on the other party, we generally charge a flat rate of $750 plus tax. Depending on the complexity of the claim and the amount of documents, further adjustments may be made. For just reviewing the claim, and assisting you in determining which documents to submit, we generally charge a flat rate of $500 plus tax. This means that you would be in charge of submitting and serving the documents prior to the Settlement Conference.
To assist in preparing and attending the Settlement Conference, we generally charge a flat rate of $750 plus tax (for clarity, this does not include the document disclosure process mentioned above). Depending on the complexity of the claim, further adjustments may be made.
For assistance in reviewing the claim, determining which documents are necessary to either prove or disprove the claim, file the documents, serve the documents, prepare and attend the Settlement Conference, we generally charge a flat rate of $1,250 plus tax. Depending on the complexity of the claim, further adjustments may be made.
If you have not settled your matter through mediation or a Settlement Conference, your matter will be scheduled for trial. A trial is where both parties have the opportunity to present their case with witnesses and documents in court and a judge will make a binding final decision.
We estimate a range of $2,000 to $4,000 per day for us to prepare for and attend trial with you, however we would need to assess closer to the time based on your particular matter.
We can also assist in preparing you for trial (i.e. do not attend court but work with you in the background). This could include reviewing documents, researching case law, preparing opening and closing statements, and preparing questions for witnesses. We estimate a range of $2,000 to $5,000, depending on the number of days of trial and the complexity of the matter. We would need to assess as trial is approaching based on your particular matter.
In either case, it is important if you reach out early so we can either confirm the dates work in our calendar or that we put space in for time to meet with you ahead of or during trial.