Two courts in Canada recently dealt with excessive legal fees charged for performing legal research and found out that computer-assisted legal research is a necessity for the contemporary practice of law but shall be carried out with competence.
In both Cass v. Ontario and Drummond v. Cadillac the Ontario Superior Court commented on artificial intelligence and legal research and found computer-assisted legal research as recoverable counsel fee item and recoverable disbursement.
In Drummond v Cadillac, the Defendant objected to “the disbursement of $1,323 for legal research for costs incurred using WestLaw. The case law is divided on whether a disbursement for legal research is recoverable on a party and party assessment of costs. One view is that the disbursement is a lawyers’ overhead expense that is not recoverable as a disbursement. The other view is that it is a reasonable and appropriate disbursement and recoverable as costs from a losing opponent.” According to the justice, “the hours spent on legal research is recoverable both as a component of counsel fee and as a disbursement. The reality is that computer-assisted legal research is a necessity for the contemporary practice of law and computer assisted legal research is here to stay with further advances in artificial intelligence to be anticipated and to be encouraged. Properly done, computer assisted legal research provides a more comprehensive and more accurate answer to a legal question in shorter time than the conventional research methodologies, which, however, also remain useful and valuable. Provided that the expenditure both in terms of lawyer time and computer time is reasonable and appropriate for the particular legal problem, I regard computer-assisted legal research as recoverable counsel fee item and also a recoverable disbursement.”
In Cass v Ontario, plaintiff conceded its liability for costs but counsel argued that the fees billed by the counsel for the defendant were both “excessive and unnecessary” and wondered “why is there a legal research fee for case precedents which are available for free through CanLII or publically accessible websites?”
The justice agreed and reduced defendant’s claims for disbursements from $24,300.67 to $11,404.08. He noted that “[i]f artificial intelligence sources were employed, no doubt counsel’s preparation time would have been significantly reduced.”
The full text of Cass v. 1410088 Ontario Inc. is available at https://www.canlii.org…
Drummond v. The Cadillac Fairview Corp. Ltd. https://www.canlii.org…
For more information on lawyers’ duty of competence, contact Francesca Giannoni-Crystal