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How the ongoing pandemic affects the demand for legal services in Canada

3 reasons why Canadians delay their visit to a lawyer.

It’s been 9 months since the beginning of the pandemic, and it’s pretty clear which businesses have suffered and which have benefited from it.

So far, the clear winners are the “work-from-home” startups like Slack and Zoom, on-demand entertainment companies like Netflix, and e-commerce giants like Amazon and Walmart.

Those that suffered are plenty: retail stores, restaurants, hotels, airlines, real estate companies… the list is long.

But what about professional services, particularly law firms?

Here are three reasons why Canadians choose to delay their visit to a lawyer, particularly during Covid.

1 — Legal Help is expensive

One of the primary reasons why Canadians have chosen to put on hold attending to their legal issues, is cost.

Legal professionals charge notoriously high legal fees. A typical lawyer in Toronto charges between $350/hr and $700/hr. To put this in perspective, an accountant charges $30/hr, and a nurse that’s helping patients through Covid — $34/hr. 

Drafting a simple shareholder agreement might cost upwards of $1,200. Declaring personal bankruptcy would require $1,800 in court filing fees alone. While going through a complex divorce will set you back by at least $5,000. 

For many Canadians, who have been relying on CERB payments of $2,000/mo to pay their rent, cost of living, healthcare, and other expenses, is it just too much to afford right now. 

2 — Legal services take a lesser priority in people’s lives

Before Covid, Canadians were using lawyers to get help drafting paperwork for Real Estate transactions, incorporating and protecting a business, filing for divorce, or navigating a complex immigration landscape.

Now that many Canadians and businesses choose to delay significant activities until after the end of the pandemic, complex actions that require significant legal considerations and the paperwork to be completed, are put on hold.

There has been an uptick in some legal services, however, particularly those related to issues arising from the pandemic. Those include employment-issues, family disputes, and bankruptcy claims. 

3 — Many sources of Legal Help are simply not available

Ever since March 2020, when social distancing rules have been put in place, plenty of businesses were forced to shut their doors — either temporarily or permanently.

Larger firms have moved their staff to work remotely, which meant that, at least initially, some interaction had to be delayed until big law was getting accustomed to the new normal. 

As larger companies tend to move slower, it took a while to implement solutions for collaboration, secure document exchange, digital signatures, etc.

Not to mention that more complex cases that required the involvement of a court had to be delayed, until after regulatory bodies continued handling those cases. 

Smaller practices and pro-bono legal clinics, that relied somewhat heavier on walk-in traffic, took a big hit when they were forced to seize accepting visitors in person. Many of them struggled to shift their marketing online to continue attracting new clients while maintaining significant expense commitments in a form of commercial rent, staffing, and other overhead.

For those reasons, consumers of legal services, and those qualifying for legal aid, were forced to put their less immediate legal needs on hold, while searching for another provider. 

As healthcare companies continue developing the vaccine, and the economic environment starts to recover, Canadians will surely once again flock to law firm offices, seeking long-awaited legal advice. 

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