Hiring a sexual assault lawyer can involve a wide range of fees that vary based on several factors. These fees may include, but are not limited to, block or flat fees versus lawyers who base their fees on an hourly rate. Whether you are quoted a flat fee or an hourly rate, your final bill will depend on the complexity of the case, the anticipated length of the trial, whether your are tried by a judge alone or a jury, and the experience level and expertise of your sexual assault lawyer.  Highly experienced and skilled criminal lawyers will obviously quote you much more than a junior or mid-level lawyer. However, let’s face it: like just about everything in life, you usually get exactly what you pay for. 

There may also be additional expenses such as whether you need to hire a private investigator, service of subpoenas, the cost of expert witnesses, and other miscellaneous legal costs. It’s important to budget for these as you prepare for your defence with your lawyer.

Costs and Legal Fees

Lawyer and Law Firm Costs

Sexual assault lawyers in Canada typically charge for their services in two different ways as follows:  

  • Hourly Rates: Lawyers and law firms often bill by the hour. Rates can vary widely based on the city and the lawyer’s experience and skill level. Hourly rates can range from $200 to $600 or more.  In addition to the hourly rate,  many lawyers will also quote a per diem  fee for every trial day.  This can quickly add up for lengthier trial matters. 
  • Flat Fees: Many sexual assault lawyers and criminal law firms will charge a fixed price,  flat fee or block fee (i.e., three different names for the same concept) to represent you through to the end of your trial.  They will also quote you a flat fee if your matter resolves without proceeding to trial. On average, you can expect a criminal lawyer to quote a set or flat fee to represent you from the start of your case to the end of your trial between $20,000 to over $150,000.  The flat fee quoted will depend on the lawyer’s expertise and experience level, the complexity of the case,  the anticipated length of the trial, and other unique circumstances.
  • Retainers: A retainer fee is a pre-payment on account, from which the lawyer will deduct legal fees and other costs as they accrue.

When discussing legal fees, be sure to ask for a detailed breakdown of what services are covered, including whether the legal fees quoted are for representing you right through to the end of your trial. It would also be in your best interest to ask about other potential costs such as administrative expenses, process server costs, and expert witness fees.

Legal Aid

If you are concerned about the affordability of a sexual assault lawyer, resources are available:

  • Legal Aid: You may be eligible for legal aid if you meet certain income criteria. Legal aid programs can provide free or subsidized legal services.
  • Pro Bono Services: Some lawyers and organizations offer pro bono (free) legal services to those who qualify due to financial hardship or the nature of the case.
  • Student Legal Clinics: Many law schools run legal clinics where supervised students provide free legal advice.

For legal aid and pro bono services, eligibility often hinges upon your financial situation, the merits of your case, and available resources. It’s important to mention that many criminal lawyers and criminal law firms do not accept any form of legal aid or practice pro bono. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Beyond legal fees, you may face loss of employment, civil damages if sued and counseling costs. Aside from the severe financial repercussions, if you are convicted of sexual assault, you will typically face a jail term ranging from months to many years in the penitentiary depending on the severity of the allegations. It is rare for an accused to avoid a jail term for a sexual assault conviction unless the allegations are very minor, such as a brief or fleeting intentional touching of a woman’s buttocks in a bar.

Retainer costs vary depending on the law firm’s pricing structure and the estimated amount of work required for your case. Retainers can typically start from a few thousand dollars to ten thousand dollars or much more.

The severity and complexity of the charges, the lawyer’s experience and expertise, the anticipated length of the trial, the mode of trial (i.e. judge alone trial versus a jury trial), and the need for expert witnesses or additional legal resources, may all impact the cost of legal representation. For example, there is a big difference between the legal fees quoted for a one or two day trial alleging a brief sexual touching of a woman’s buttocks in a bar, versus a complex multi-complainant two or three week rape allegation trial requiring extensive pre-trial applications.

If you are quoted an hourly rate, your lawyer’s hourly legal fee “meter” is always running. You will have no real certainty how much your final legal bill will be, unless the lawyer sets a cap on the number of hours it will take them to complete your file through to the end of your trial. This creates inefficiencies as many clients will perceive there is an incentive for a lawyer to keep the meter running for as long as possible and overbill them. If you are quoted an hourly rate, it is important to ask your lawyer to put a cap on the maximum number of hours that they will charge you. Otherwise, you may be in for a shock regarding the amount of legal fees you will wind up paying.

A block or flat fee is an exact fee that is quoted if your matter resolves prior to setting a trial date and and a higher exact quote to represent you to the end of your trial. A client who is quoted a reasonable flat or block fee, may perceive there is more of a positive incentive for their lawyer to work hard to professionally and efficiently handle their matter with a view to getting the best possible result. They will not be worried that their lawyer will keep endlessly running the hourly fees meter. If you are quoted a flat fee, you will know upfront what your exact legal fees will be for various scenarios such as if your matter resolves or if you proceed to trial. This will lead to to certainly, peace of mind, and less financial worry about how much the resolution or trial of your matter will ultimately cost you.

Our law firm and many other criminal lawyers in Ontario feel that flat fees are a better way of doing business. Our clients who have been quoted a flat fee that they are comfortable with, are not worried about being financially devastated by a final bill which is way higher than they anticipated. Otherwise, the client will be concerned about how much every meeting with their lawyer, phone calls, correspondence, review of the disclosure, meetings with the crown, legal research, written legal submissions and court appearances etc. will cost them.

If you are quoted an hourly rate, it is possible that the hours your lawyer works on your file will just keep escalating at their high hourly rate with no perceived end in sight. For example, family law lawyers usually quote an hourly rate which attracts criticism from many clients who have been financially devastated by their family lawyer’s never ending legal fees which are billed at an hourly rate.