Taming Your Legal Bills (Part 1 of 4)

Buying Real Estate

Podcast Episode 16: “Taming Your Legal Bills 1/4 – Fees Disbursements Taxes.”

This episode explains how your lawyer figures out your legal bill for a real estate transaction. It also features discussion of how speed, risk, and benefit can influence the cost of more complex deals.

Download the audio file HERE.
Download the PDF file for all four parts HERE.
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How Do Lawyers Charge for Real Estate Deals?

Anyone buying and selling real estate needs a great team. You carefully select your team members including your realtor, mortgage broker/lender, building inspector, property manager, accountant, and your lawyer. It’s in your interest to have the team members giving you the best possible service at the best possible price. This presentation is aimed at making sure you understand what and how your lawyer charges you and how to keep those legal accounts under control.

Let’s start with some of the basics. Your legal bill/account is composed of three things: fees, disbursements, and taxes.

  • The fee portion is what your lawyer gets paid for doing the work.
  • Disbursements are your lawyer’s out-of-pocket expenses that s/he pays to get the work done. Disbursements include both internal expenses at the law firm such as couriers, copies, and long-distance, as well as external expenses paid to third parties for things such as searches and government registration costs.
  • Taxes are levied on the fee portion of your legal account and on some disbursements via sales tax.


The fee portion of your lawyer’s legal account is calculated one of three basic ways; fixed fee, hourly rate, and on a contingency basis.

  • Lawyers charge fixed fees when they have a very good idea of how a particular piece of legal work will proceed. Basic real estate transactions fit in this category. Most real estate investors would like to pay a fixed fee so they can calculate their potential profits accurately.
  • For custom or complicated legal work where a lawyer has no firm idea of how long it will take or what the issues might be, attorneys charges you by the hour.
  • Legal accounts billed on a contingency basis mean that the lawyer gets paid from money s/he collects on your behalf. They depend on the lawyer being almost 100% certain that s/he will collect for you; it’s only a question of when. Motor vehicle accidents are a classic type of contingency. Contingency-based real estate matters are very rare.


When it comes to Alberta real estate, Barry is the lawyer you want on your side. Contact him now!

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