Choosing a lawyer
If you have decided to pay for a lawyer to help you prepare for Ontario’s Not-for-Profit Corporations Act, 2010 (ONCA), these steps can help you evaluate potential lawyers:
How to screen a lawyer
1. Confirm the lawyer is licensed to practice law in Ontario
If you are considering working with a lawyer who is not listed in our directory, check that they are listed in the Law Society Lawyer and Paralegal Directory. You can also search for past “illegal practitioners” at the website of the Law Society of Ontario (LSO).
Working with an unlicensed practitioner is risky because they:
- may not be properly trained
- are not bound by professional rules
- do not have professional liability insurance
2. Screen for misconduct
Visit the Law Society of Ontario (LSO)’s website to confirm if a lawyer’s license has been suspended or revoked due to misconduct. LSO’s website also publishes the reasons for license suspensions and revocations.
LSO publishes lists of all lawyers who have received a regulatory notice or who are currently scheduled for a disciplinary hearing. Both lists provide information about the underlying complaints.
If the lawyer’s misconduct was of a public nature, LSO will publish the outcome of the meeting.
3. Screen for expertise and suitability
Not every lawyer who practices nonprofit and/or charity law will be the right fit for your nonprofit or budget.
Before you contact a lawyer, be prepared with questions and a description of what you want them to do for you.
Ask the lawyer what you need to prepare before you meet. They may need to see your:
- letters patent and supplementary letters patent
- charitable registration documents (if applicable)
Ask if they charge for an initial consultation in person or by phone. This could be a flat fee or an hourly rate. Ask how long the consultation will be.
We’ve provided some questions you might ask a lawyer at an initial consultation.
What to ask a lawyer
When you meet with a potential lawyer (in person or by phone), ask about:
- How long have you been practicing nonprofit and/or charity law?
- What training or preparation have you had related to the ONCA?
- How many nonprofits or charities have you helped to get ready for the ONCA?
o How? (for example, changed bylaws, governance structures)
o What size? (for example, in terms of budget or number of people involved)
o What sectors? (for example, health, housing, religious, sports)
- Do you charge by the hour or per case?
- How much is your retainer (the amount you must pay before a lawyer starts work on a case)?
- What factors could change the cost of your services?
- We want to [insert your specific goals/needs here]. Can you estimate how much this will cost?
- What can we do to keep costs down?
- Will we have to pay for anything besides your fees?
- How will you bill us and when do we need to pay – monthly? or when you complete your work?
Timelines and logistics
- How long will [insert your specific goals/needs here] take to complete?
- Do you foresee any complicating factors?
- How will you keep in touch with us? How much time will you need from us?
- Do you prefer to deal with one contact person within our nonprofit?
Reviewed: May 2014