Sunday, February 11, 2018

See My Websites for New Blog Posts

I greatly appreciate all the ongoing support over the past many years from my readers.

Like what you're reading on The Barrister Brief? Want to read more?

This blog will be maintained, but because online information platforms evolve new articles I'm creating will be posted to:

1. my LinkedIn profile:

2. my Facebook page:

3. my Twitter feed:

4. one of the websites I maintain:

     a. (the main law firm website which should include most articles)

     b. (where you'll find immigration & citizenship law articles)

     c. (where you'll find family law articles)

     d. (where you'll find criminal law articles)

     e. (where you'll find tax law articles)

     f. (where you'll find employment & professional conduct law articles)


Tuesday, October 25, 2016


Reason #1: It's the law in Ontario to have a lawyer represent you. It's not a scam by lawyers to make business for themselves. The law of Ontario requires that every buyer and every seller of real estate be represented by their own lawyers (unless the area is remote, where one lawyer might be able to do both sides of the deal). It's true that lawyers aren’t required to be involved in every real estate transaction in a lot of other jurisdictions. But if you consider that real estate is likely the most expensive thing you'll ever buy in your life, unless you're really into rare luxury cars or mega yachts, then the fact that you'll be paying a fraction of a single percent of the purchase price in legal fees seems sensible if it protects your investment. Believe it or not, lawyer do stuff on a real estate deal beyond print out a lot of paper that you're required to sign.

Reason #2: There may be legal problems with the title to the property. Most people now hire home inspectors to check out their dream residence for fatal building flaws. Your lawyer is there to help minimize nasty surprises over fatal legal flaws. Like that there's a registered right of way for an oil pipeline through your backyard. Or that half the garage that comes with the property is actually located over the neighbour's lot line. Or that two liens for non-payment of large debts are registered against the property.

Reason #3: You need to borrow money to buy the property. Very few of us are able to pay cash for real estate, unless we're buying bare land or a really run down house in a very cheap location. But anyone lending you a large sum of money to buy a property is going to want to register a mortgage against the property to secure the debt. And placing a mortgage on a property requires a lawyer, in part to make sure there aren't other priority claims already registered against the property in which case your lender might not be willing to lend, or might only lend at a much higher rate of interest if it doesn't get first priority against the property. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2016


There comes a time in all our lives when we receive some kind of official pronouncement that we disagree with. Being rejected for a licence or permit. Being told that we don’t have the rights we thought we had. Losing in a civil money dispute, in family court, or even at a trial for a criminal or regulatory offence.

We might find the result hurtful and unjust. We might be outraged. And we might remain firm in our convictions over the justness of our cause!

Some will just swallow the defeat and move on. But others will want to continue the fight.

Most of the world’s legal systems have created fairness check mechanisms on first level decisions, regardless of who is making the decision or what subject the decision relates to. The buck almost never stops with the government desk officer, the hearing tribunal, or the trial judge. At least one level of appeal of an adverse decision is almost always possible if you look hard enough for an appeal route. 

A psychologist could probably give you a helpful take on the emotional toll that fighting on entails, and what kind of person is more likely to continue to fight rather than throw in the towel. But my professional focus is solely on whether and how the continued fight can be won. 

In the over two decades I’ve been helping clients with appeals (and watching others by necessity or choice represent themselves), I’ve seen lots of missed opportunities for winning appeals because of deadly but completely avoidable mistakes that people make shortly after receiving that decision they want desperately to overturn. Here are a Canadian appellate lawyer’s insider tips for five things you should never do (and I frequently see done again and again) if you want to continue the good fight, which should help you out regardless of where you live. 

1. BE LATE TO THE PARTY. It doesn't matter how great your arguments might be; if you're late on an appeal, you're almost always out of luck. And some appeal filing periods can be crazy short. Like 7 days from the decision. Usually you've got 30 days; occasionally as long as 90 days. In that time, you’ll need to find a lawyer (or figure out the process yourself), get a copy of the decision and the materials that were reviewed in making it (you might need to order transcripts or request government records), draft plausible grounds for appeal, track down the responding party to serve the appeal notice on, and file the notice with the office, tribunal or court hearing the appeal. 

2. GET LOST FINDING THE PARTY. There are more places out there to appeal to than you might expect. In federations like Canada or the U.S., you need to figure out if you’re going to a provincial, state or federal appeal body. You might also need to determine if you’ve got a final order or interlocutory (interim) order, as believe it or not their respective appeals might go to different places. After being late, appealing to the wrong place is probably the most common completely avoidable reason for failed appeals. I’ve seen enough lawyers get the appeal route wrong. Sometimes, even the courts themselves disagree over which one of them should be hearing an appeal!

3. THINK IT'S SIMPLY ANOTHER KICK AT THE SAME CAN. The time to make your best pitch is with the first instance official, tribunal or court. Appeal bodies love the word “deference” to lower officials, and will liberally use that word against you if you don’t give them very good reasons why they should overturn a lower decision. You can’t usually appeal errors of fact, only errors of law (though it’s possible to turn big enough factual errors into errors of law). So it’s deadly to try to appeal on the basis that you think a decision is merely wrong, stupid, or misguided. Even if the person you’re appealing to is inclined to agree with you, she can’t simply substitute her own decision for the decision of the lower official. There has to be some kind of significant legal error you point out that is worth interfering with. 

4. ASSUME YOU'VE GOT AN EVEN SHOT. Casino gamblers and appeal gamblers both sometimes suffer from magical thinking on odds not rooted in reality. And while its easy to get stats on roulette with a double zero having a 5.26% house edge, it’s a lot more difficult to pin down precise odds on appeals. They’re definitely less than 50-50. Your best shot at winning is always at first instance - when you originally submit that government form or appear before that tribunal or trial court - not on appeal. In Canada, the odds of getting some kind of remedy out of an appeal are probably somewhere between 1 in 3 and 1 in 4, based on available appellate court data. If the stakes are high, those aren't such bad odds. But if you're fighting about a minor issue, you need to reflect on whether the financial and emotional cost is really worth it. 

5. ONLY MAKE ONE ARGUMENT. You might think you've found that one killer, slam dunk argument for an appeal. The one that no one could reject. But not everyone sees the world as you do. So even if a reviewer has sympathy for your cause, she may not buy your one argument wonder. Come up with more. I often come up with a dozen or more possibly viable grounds of appeal for clients. Sometimes we whittle that number down a bit for the actual appeal argument, but which of those arguments appeal officers and judges seize on as the winning strong argument continues to surprise me, so it never pays to limit your arguments other than eliminating the ones that stand no chance of success. 

To read more, see my appeals law blog

Monday, July 4, 2016


Credit: "Neighbors (2013) Poster" by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia

If you go by the number of court cases I'm involved in helping folks defend themselves against neighbour actions or lawsuits over fences and shrubberies, you'll realize that the old adage "good fences make good neighbours" is patently false. I've got lots of examples of neighbours taking great offence when one neighbour decides to legally erect a fence along (but usually not even resting on) property lines. Other cases arise when a neighbour decides to trim a tree overhanging her property, or move a couple of shrubberies, or exercise a longstanding right of way over a neighbour's property to get to her own landlocked property.

In a perfect world, any of these actions would involve neighbours calmly and politely talking out their concerns, and not having to resort to hiring me to go to court for them. But of course we don't live in that mythical perfect world. People hold grudges and nurse petty grievances. People act unreasonably, even when their actions and reactions aren't logical and aren't in their own financial and human relationship best interests.

You might think people would carefully consider whether spending $10,000 (or even $40,000) fighting over a shrubbery, and in the process totally poisoning a relationship with a neighbour whose help you might actually need in the future, was really worth it. But we all know that hearts rule rather than heads, and that emotions get the better of people time and time again, even when what they are doing really makes no sense.

And even if sense does later enter into the equation, once they are $10,000 down the legal litigation superhighway, it can be very difficult to put the brakes on that Litigious Lexus. Far easier to keep the pedal to the metal, and burn through another $10,000 in lawyer gas, and then another $10,000.

I'm happy to say my clients don't start frivolous litigation, or take ridiculous actions against their neighbours. I'm not speaking as someone with blinders on. Rather, I just seem to attract those who are getting the short end of the stick. And I refuse to represent anyone who won't listen to at least some reason, because they won't be clients whom I can help. They're still entitled to legal representation, I just don't have to be the one providing it.

So what's to be done when you're on the receiving end of a property neighbour legal dispute in order to minimize cost and hassle?

1. Try to deescalate the dispute before it gets to court. I know this is easier said than done, but many believe court will offer a quick and inexpensive or at least definitive fix to the problem, and usually none of those assumptions are correct. Disputes can drag for years in court, at huge cost, and then the court might not even offer a ruling on all the issues in dispute.

2. Try to keep the dispute in Small Claims Court, where your legal fees will be much lower because the process is much quicker. Unfortunately, Small Claims Court won't determine questions of rights in land itself. It only determines questions of money owed - such as from cutting down a prized tree that the neighbour didn't have the right to cut.

3. Don't try to represent yourself in court on the dispute. I'm not making this suggestion from the perspective of a lawyer who earns his living from clients who hire me to go to court for them, but rather as a person who sees countless courtroom disasters caused by smart people trying to navigate the highly complex legal system by themselves. No one tries to do open heart surgery by themselves. No one with any sense even tries to set a broken bone by themselves. So why try to do the legal equivalent by yourself? The patient is going to die, or at least wind up far sicker than he was before the start of treatment.

4. Keep scrupulous records of all events and interactions with the neighbour and authorities over the issue. Recording names, dates, places and detailed descriptions, including taking photos (and maybe video) are needed. These records will be key to ensuring your evidence of your side of the story is believed in court.

5. Be constantly considering what a reasonable settlement offer would look like right from the start. "Reasonable" means not just to you, but to the neighbour. What's going to be attractive to the neighbour, but still get you at least some of what you want? Because you really, really want to avoid going to court in such matters, and really want to shorten as much as possible the time such a dispute spends dragging through court.

6. Check if you bought a title insurance policy when acquiring your property, and considering making a claim on it. Title insurance was only being introduced into Ontario when I started practicing law, and remains a newer product that most people now purchase (because of the relatively low cost) but don't always think about when neighbour disputes arise. The coverage of these policies vary greatly, so it's important to speak to your lawyer and the title insurer about what may or may not be covered. Stewart Title and First Canadian Title are likely the two largest issuers of such policies in Ontario. 

Monday, May 30, 2016


Although the media is full of talk about the imminent legalization of the possession of small amounts of marihuana in Canada, the reality is that we may still be at least a couple of years away from legislation coming into force, that growing or selling your own marihuana will probably remain offences, and that courts will continue to be clogged with those accused of possessing, selling, producing or importing a host other recreational pharmaceuticals. 

Being investigated, charged or going through the court process for a drug offence can be a very stressful life event. I served for many years as a Federal Crown drug prosecutor, and now defend those being investigated for or charged with drug offences. I've trained the police on how to properly draft and execute drug search warrants and wiretaps, make drug-related arrests and take statements from those implicated in drug offence. I've even published a series of books called The Investigator's Legal Handbook related to these issues. Being well informed is your best defence to a drug charge. Here I give you the four tips you need to follow to survive a drug charge or investigation. 

Tip 1 - Say Nothing other than Identifying Yourself

Don't say anything to the police, other than giving them your correct name. And if you're driving, you're going to need to produce a driver's licence, vehicle insurance and registration documents. 

Don't try to talk your way out of the situation. Don't deny anything. Don't admit to anything. Don't agree to let the police search anywhere. But follow their directions and be polite to them. 

Whatever you say will be used against you later. Even if you deny everything, that could later be used against you. Trust me. I've seen it all before. 

Regardless of whether you're walking along the street, driving in a vehicle, or sitting at home watching television, when the police come knocking, say nothing. Follow this tip, and the police will only be left with evidence of what they find or don't find. What others say or don't say about you usually doesn't count for anything in a criminal court drug trial, unless it's a police agent or police officer who is testifying. But what you personally have told the police counts for a lot. 

Don't think even if the police aren't making a recording of what you're saying, or aren't writing it down in a little black notebook, that it can't later be used against you. Say nothing. That's your right, so take full advantage of that right.

However, don't try to obstruct the police in doing their jobs. If they've got a warrant to search your house, let them get on with their job of searching. Let your lawyer later figure out if it was a valid or invalid warrant. But you don't need to point anything out to the police. Resist identifying items for the police, even if the police tell you that will save on their messing up your house. 

Same thing in a vehicle - no need to hand anything over. If they're going to search your vehicle, they will search. Nothing you say or don't say will change things, as tempting as it might be to say something. 

Likewise if you're walking down the street. Don't become trapped by the "have you got anything on you that you shouldn't have?" question. And its companion request: "if you do, hand it over." Many of my clients assume that by being cooperative, the police will just let the matter drop and send them on their way. But often what happens is that they've dug themselves into a self-incrimination hole and get charged with drug offences. Whereas if they had said and done nothing (other than giving their names), the police may have had no legal authority to search. 

Tip 2 - Talk to a Lawyer ASAP

In some personal disputes, lawyering up early on only aggravates the dispute. But being criminally investigated or charged is a completely different situation. There, you'll want to consult a lawyer as soon as possible. 

A little bit of legal advice can be a bargain in protecting your rights. That advice might mean a police investigation goes nowhere, that less serious charges are laid - for instance possession instead of possession for the purpose of trafficking - or if a court case does proceed that you haven't helped the police make the case against you. 

You shouldn't wait to talk to a lawyer until you've been charged. Some drug investigations take a while, and there may be things you can do to protect your rights at an early stage of the investigation. Your lawyer might talk to the police for you to ask about the scope of their inquiries. Your lawyer might be able to work out a deal for you to avoid you getting charged with anything. Your lawyer might be able to get some charges dropped. Or your lawyer might go to court for you to get back seized money or other assets. 

Tip 3 - Be Personally Informed About Drug Laws

Informing yourself in a basic sense about drug laws is the best way you can make intelligent decisions about your legal defence. There's a lot of clutter - like hundreds of years of the common law of evidence and dozens of years of constitutional rights law - that makes it seem really complicated, and for which you definitely need a lawyer. But I can sum up the basics for you quickly.

There are principally 5 types of drug offences (all under what's wordily known as the Controlled Drug and Substances Act): possession, possession for the purpose of trafficking, trafficking, production, and importation. The type of drug involved might make the penalties for any of these offences more severe, but mostly don't alter their inherent character. "Conviction" for any of them will gives you a criminal record, and could cause you a lifetime of hassles crossing the U.S. border and applying for jobs within Canada until you are able to obtain a pardon (now unpoetically called a "record suspension"). So you really, really, really want to avoid a conviction. 

There are three ways to do that. 

One, convince the Crown to drop the charges. Good defence lawyers are capable of doing this. It might not happen that often, but it's usually your best shot to make everything go away. 

Two, plead guilty and convince a judge to give you what's known as a "discharge." It's a finding of guilt, but no conviction is entered. So if you're later asked by anyone, "have you ever been convicted of a criminal offence," you can truthfully say "no." Again, a good defence lawyer might be able to obtain this for you - but it will depend on the type of offence and type of drug you are pleading to.

Three, take your case to trial. You might have a viable defence, because the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt is entirely on the Crown. You have to prove nothing. The Crown has to prove knowledge and control and possibly other elements. You might even have a Charter of Rights defence if your rights were violated. There sometimes isn't much downside to taking a drug case to trial other than the legal fees if the sentence imposed after trial isn't much different than the sentence you would have received after a guilty plea. A good drug defence lawyer will not be afraid to take your case to trial so long as there is some viable defence to present. 

TIP 4 - Don't Plead Guilty if You're Not Guilty

I often have clients stuck in the system. They're understandably stressed out by their drug charges hanging over their heads for months on end. They want the process over with. They have a good defence, but they can't take the waiting anymore. So they tell me, "look Gordon, I didn't do it, but I want to plead just to get it over with." But it's not ethical for any lawyer to help you with such a plea. Lying to the court is an offence. If you didn't do it, you just need to hang in there. You'll be stuck with a conviction for life, so ultimately waiting a year to have your trial day in court is worth it. Trust me, I'm a lawyer. 

Sunday, May 29, 2016


We're usually completely blind to who our neighbours will be, or who we'll be renting property from, until we've moved into a house or apartment or business premises. And by then, it's too late too avoid the neighbours or landlord from hell. 

There are 4 key legal steps you need to take to survive and thrive in a neighbour or landlord dispute over your property, regardless of whether you're an owner or renter. 

Step One - Don't Escalate Too Quickly

As tempting as it might be, don't escalate the dispute by involving lawyers too quickly. This is the opposite of what I'd suggest in some other legal dispute situations like being charged with an offence or being sued. The reason to control escalation to the greatest degree possible is that most property dispute cases can be resolved with a little common sense. This isn't the case with lots of other types of disputes.

Embrace the "good neighbour principle" that anything you do on your property shouldn't harm your neighbour/landlord and his property, and insist upon your neighbour/landlord according you the same respect. Don't cut down your half of a tree on your property if it will kill the remaining half tree on your neighbour's property. Don't build a wall that will completely block all light to your neighbour's property. Don't aim an exhaust chimney directly at your neighbour. Don't make so much noise, at all times of the day and night, so as to drive your neighbour crazy. Don't make massive modifications to your rented premises without talking first to your landlord about the changes.

You might need to do some of these things in moderation in order to make proper use of your property, but showing the greatest restraint possible, and talking to your neighbour/landlord first, is most likely to avoid you being dragged to court and incurring legal expenses. 

All these property owner/renter actions I've just mentioned have ultimately wound up in court. Some have spawned many court cases. But at the end of the day, judges have usually granted judgment in favour of the reasonable party and against the unreasonable party.

Step Two - Hire a Lawyer Instead of Self-Help Revenge 

If your neighbour or landlord refuses to act reasonably, after you've tried to reason with him or her, then it's time to talk to a lawyer so you can better know your rights, and perhaps have your lawyer talk to your neighbour or landlord's lawyer. 

This is NOT the time to engage in self-help, and get revenge against the unreasonable person. You won't be doing yourself any favours if the matter later winds up in court through your acts of self-help revenge - even if they feel very good at the time. 

So cutting down your neighbour's tree after he cut down your tree, flooding your neighbour after she flooded you, breaking into your rented premises after your landlord locked out all need to be resisted. Instead, hire a lawyer and sort it out through negotiation or in court. That's the only way to get a permanent fix. 

Your lawyer will tell you what you can permissibly do in the interim. The other way of self-help is a path to police involvement. And trust me, you don't want that. I've seen it often enough, and it ain't pretty. 

Step 3 - Document, Document, Document

Property disputes are a whole lot more tangible than other kinds of disputes. You can touch property. You can feel the earth being fought over beneath your feet. Touch the wall that your neighbour should never have built across your driveway. Smell the absence of that tree that should have never been cut down. Finger the padlock that should have never been placed on the front door of your business.

As a result there are usually lots of documents and photos that you can create or gather to demonstrate to a court why you're in the right and your neighbour or landlord is in the wrong. Step 3 involves painstaking gathering of evidence. Avoid she said/she said competitions of credibility, and focus on absolute truths that you can prove through hard evidence.

Take lots of photos - preferably before and after the start of the dispute. Pull out a survey or commission a new property boundary survey. Dust off those land title or lease documents, or have your lawyer conduct a diligent title search for you. Make some videos. Write out an extremely detailed chronology of events and give it to your lawyer - the more dates, names, places and details, the better. Collect witness statements. Your lawyer will probably want to draft up a sworn affidavit for you for later presentation to a court, attaching lots of exhibits, and will need lots of provable detail to create a compelling affidavit. 

STEP FOUR - Figure Out Your End Game Early

Think carefully early on in the dispute about your end game and what you will settle for out of the property dispute. Avoid demanding monetary damages if you're in court - they'll trap you into a lengthy trial of proving who owes who what, and how much is owed. You could be stuck in court for years, and the legal fees could outweigh any damages that are ever awarded. And then you might find collecting those damages to be impossible. 

Ask yourself: what will best restore me to the position I should have been in? New trees? An adjusted property line? A quieter neighbour? A landlord who leaves me alone to run my business? Then work with your lawyer to figure out what legal means will get you to that point of resolution.  

Friday, May 27, 2016


Your life working with a barrister can be productive or it can be miserable. In this post I'll explain to you the four steps you need to follow to make the relationship the former and not the latter.

It doesn't matter if you're being dragged kicking and screaming to court in response to a criminal charge, small claims or Superior Court of Justice civil suit against you or your business, are trapped in family law proceedings, or maybe you need to initiate a court application to clarify your rights over real estate, or the interpretation of a will, or recover money from someone. Unless you're planning to do that case yourself - and in over two decades of practice I usually don't see good outcomes for those who try the DIY route - you'll be stuck working with a barrister.

In Canada, barristers are simply lawyers who go to court. Unlike in England, they're part of the same law societies as solicitors. While we've never worn white horsehair wigs - I've heard they were too difficult to obtain in colonial times - we do sometimes wear black robes that have a habit of getting caught on door handles as we attempt to swish imperiously in and out of rooms. 

Step One - Be Sure You Need a Barrister

Clarify at the start of the relationship why you need the barrister. Many people come to see me thinking they might benefit from a lawyer, but are not quite sure what the lawyer can do for them. I always tell my clients that a little legal advice can be a bargain. But going to court unless you absolutely have to go is never a bargain. 

So before you contact a barrister, consider why you need one. And then when you do speak to the barrister, explore upfront exactly how he or she might be able to help you. 

Don't accept vague answers from a barrister about his or her plans to help you. Instead, push the barrister to explain step by step what his or her plan is for you. 

You might not really need a barrister. And it could be worth a free five minute phone call to find that out or a one hour paid consultation with a lawyer. Even if you pay up front for a bit of advice on your matter, possibly including asking the barrister to write you a formal legal opinion about the likely prospects of success of your case in court, it will still be way, way cheaper than starting to spend money on court fees once litigation has started.

You might need a psychologist or family therapist or credit counsellor or accountant more than a barrister. If you've got a neighbour dispute, you should weigh the expense of a real estate agent versus a barrister. Family counsellors for marriage troubles are definitely cheaper than family lawyers. I'm not suggesting other professionals can definitely fix your problems, but they might provide a more graceful exit to them than would litigation.

However, sometimes going to court will be the only option. Like if you've been charged with a criminal offence. Or if you are being sued by someone else. Or if you have a tax dispute with the government. 

Step Two - Clarify the True Cost of the Barrister

Demand up front from the barrister a fair assessment of fees for your matter, and in turn be prepared and realistic about your ability to fund those fees. Push the barrister for a block fee if possible, even if it's only for specific stages of a case, as that will best control and predict your costs. 

If fees need to be hourly, make the barrister explain why. And don't make the mistake of thinking a lower hourly rate will lead to a lower cost of the case, since a cheaper by the hour barrister might have less experience, and consequently wind up spending more time on your case. 

Also don't be shocked by barrister fees. Many solicitors actually take home more money than barristers, but people usually don't complain about their seemingly "smaller" fees which are based on volume and where much of the work is being done by trained clerks. By comparison, barristers will be doing most of your work themselves, and court cases tend to suck up an enormous amount of lawyer time as compared to a simple real estate transaction which a lawyer might only personally spends one or two hours working on. 

If you can't afford the fees, tell that to the barrister upfront. There may be less expensive ways of proceeding available, even if they're not the preferred ways of proceeding. Don't mislead yourself about being able to afford a potentially very costly case because you think it will settle. You always need to plan for the worst case scenario when it comes to litigation. 

Regardless of whether the fees are block or hourly, don't let the barrister be vague about how extras like "disbursements" can drive up those fees. Establish at the start if there are likely to be significant disbursements like transcript costs, expert witness fees, or printing and binding fees. 

A rule of thumb is that criminal cases tend to be cheaper than civil cases - even small claims - because they simply take up less barrister in-court and preparation time, settle at earlier stages, and involve fewer pre-trial proceedings. You'll usually be able to get a block fee from a barrister for a criminal case, but civil cases will usually be hourly because they're less predictable. 

Costs of appeals for civil or criminal cases depend upon the complexity of the trial; a four week trial with 500 exhibits is going to cost more to appeal than a one day trail with five exhibits. But you may be able to get a block fee quote for an appeal - all the appeals I take on are done as block fees. 

Step Three - Work Collaboratively with the Barrister

Press the barrister from the start of the relationship on what he or she needs from you. You giving the barrister appropriate help from the get go will make the relationship far more successful and cheaper for you. 

Does the barrister want a factual chronology? A list of witnesses together with their addresses and phone numbers? Copies of possible court exhibits, including photos? You won't be able to anticipate all barrister needs, so ask. If you're having trouble getting direct answers on needs from the barrister, press the barrister's law clerks for what kinds of things they usually collect for cases. You need to work collaboratively with the barrister. 

Your physical health is a collaborative endeavour with your family doctor. Same with you legal health. 

Don't make the mistake of thinking that your only obligation in working with a barrister is paying the bills. Really your barrister is more of an interpreter or negotiator or intermediary between you and the court; your barrister isn't your replacement or doppelgänger. Making your barrister relationship the most result and cost effective possible requires your full participation in the case.

Step Four - Continuously Evaluate What Would be an Acceptable End Result

Evaluate in advance of retaining the barrister, and continuously reevaluate during the course of your barrister-client relationship, what would amount to an acceptable court result or end game for you. Don't enter the relationship with vague notions of "total victory" as even if your barrister gets you to that point, you might might be capable to recognizing it after you've been in the court process for a while. So be realistic in your court outcome expectations, and continually examine the options you're presented with for getting off the litigation treadmill. 

In criminal cases, an acceptable result might be easier to evaluate than for civil cases. If you don't have a criminal record, and want to avoid one, a good result might be diversion or receiving a discharge, in addition to dropping of charges or an acquittal. If you do have a criminal record, but need to avoid going to jail so you can keep your job, then staying out of jail through a community based house arrest sentence might be acceptable. 

I'm not saying you can't aim higher than the minimum acceptable result, but just that you need to consider your options from the start. It might take you weeks of careful reflection to figure out what result you really want. You'll have the necessary time to reflect if you consider things from day one of the barrister-client process. You might only have 24 hours to decide on a deal once a firm offer is made. If you really didn't "do it" in a criminal case, then make clear up front to your barrister that the only acceptable result to you is full exoneration. That way he won't waste his time trying to negotiate a deal for you, but rather will first try to convince the Crown the drop the charges, and second will simply prepare to take your case to trial. 

In civil cases, an acceptable result might be more intangible. One result to consider is that you don't want to spend more on barrister fees than you save in settlement payments. As much as you don't want to give the other side a penny of your hard earned money, a good barrister will be frank with you about when your legal costs will outweigh your potential civil windfall. 

For instance, if hire a lawyer to sue someone in small claims court for $5000 in damages, get a judgment for $4000, get $750 in court costs, and pay $5000 in legal fees, and you'll be $250 poorer than when you started. But get a judgment for $20,000 with $3000 in court costs, and you'll be $18,000 ahead on that same $5000 amount of legal fees. So for civil matters, you need to be really careful in evaluating how much your case is worth - regardless of whether you're the plaintiff or defendant. 

Anytime legal fees could outstrip case worth, that is a huge red flag. People often get sucked into spending stupid amounts of money on barristers because the expense doesn't seem too bad to start with, they're overly optimistic about how quickly they can achieve victory, and they don't press their barrister sufficiently for the worst case scenario. 

But there are things worth fighting for, even if fees climb. For the control and survival of your business. To be able to continue to practice your profession. But just be realistic about what you can live with, based on asking your barrister about the likely outcomes. If your barrister refuses to discuss this with you, find another barrister. But because your barrister may have hundreds of clients, don't expect him to be able to pry out of you what you really want, and to read your mind, if you don't tell him.