Unbundled legal services — engaging a lawyer for part of a court case
I was recently involved in a case where the court awarded costs for “unbundled legal services” to a self-represented litigant. The case is Jordan v. Stewart. The decision on the issue of costs is set out in supplementary reasons.
After succeeding at trial, the court allowed the acting in person mother her costs of $90,000.00. That sum included accounts from lawyers who had provided ‘unbundled legal services” of about $65,000.00 at different parts of the proceeding.
In addition to allowing all of the mother’s lawyer’s fees, the Court allowed costs for part of her preparation for trial. Her claims for loss of income and a counsel fee for herself were not accepted by the Court.
The $90,000.00 was small compared to the father’s legal fees. Those exceeded $400,000.00.
The case took almost two weeks of trial followed by a full day costs hearing. The trial was a David and Goliath battle, featuring a self-represented mother up against a team of 3 lawyers and a law clerk.
Both parties claimed to be the successful party. After a full day of argument the Court delivered supplementary written reasons finding the mother was the successful party. The presiding judge said he would have awarded the mother costs even if she had not been the successful party. The Court found the father was motivated by a desire to do harm the mother and the child in spending vast sums of money well in excess of the economic benefit to him.
Justice Czutrin accepted the mother’s claim for the costs of obtaining legal services for part of the case, known as “unbundled legal services” and directed that she receive costs sufficient to pay her lawyers’ accounts.
Justice Czutrin noted my involvement as follows:
“Mr. MacLennan also prepared a Bill of Costs for work he did for the mother from September 7, 2012 to April 3, 2013 totaling $15,520.56. The description of his services includes trial preparation, discussion of issues that arose during the hearing before me, and discussions .. raised by father’s counsel.”
The decision is significant given recent changes to the Law Society’s by-laws allowing lawyers to provide legal services for part of proceedings.