Ban on contingency fees 'a barrier to accessing justice'

A group of lawyers who recently wrote a letter to the provincial government arguing for the legalization of contingency fee agreements in family law matters are on the right track, Greater Toronto-area family lawyer Andrew Feldstein tells the Toronto Star.

Feldstein, of Feldstein Family Law Group, was not involved in the letter, but says the lack of contingency fees is “a barrier to accessing justice.”

Ontario is the only jurisdiction in Canada that outlaws no-win no-fee legal arrangements in family law cases, reports the Star.

The province “desperately needs to catch up with the rest of the country” and legalize these fee arrangements, a group of 11 GTA lawyers wrote in the letter, says the report.

Under provincial legislation, contingency fees — where lawyers agree to take on a case knowing they will only be paid if they win — are banned in criminal and family law matters. The method is allowed in personal injury litigation and class-action cases, reports the Star.

“Some people struggle to afford a lawyer, so this is a way to pay. Even if someone is asset-rich, they may have challenges in affording a lawyer from a cash-flow perspective,” Feldstein says in the article.

In the Star, Feldstein acknowledged that legalizing the payment method for family law matters was more complicated than personal injury cases, because the money the lawyer is fighting for is a family’s savings.

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