Phone: 780.298.2577

Frequently Asked Questions

agile, efficient, and creative legal research and writing support for Alberta's lawyers


About Research and Writing Lawyers, and About Our Services

What do research and writing lawyers do? Research and writing lawyers focus on keeping abreast of changes and developments in the law, and on digesting and synthesizing what they find into authoritative, persuasive opinions and arguments. A research and writing lawyer is a resource for other lawyers, who use our work to guide their own advice, strategy, and tactics. We help lawyers help their clients by providing high-level research and writing at a fraction of the cost of a traditional law firm doing the same research and writing work in-house.

How do you save my clients and I money? How do you help lawyers provide better service? I add capacity to your office without you having to sink resources into hiring new full-time or part-time staff, obtaining office space, or obtaining research materials and subscriptions. Research and writing lawyers use a business model is similar in principle to outsourcing, since we perform your research and writing work for a lower cost than you or your staff would do in-house. It is not only your client that benefits from the lower cost. The time that you and your staff would spend on that client is freed up to serve other clients, still billing at your typical rates. The capacity we add is also valuable purely in terms of putting more labour time at your disposal. Demanding legal work, such as trials, often stretch lawyers and law firms to their limits. Retaining Orion Legal Research during these times adds another member to your team on a flexible, short-term basis, letting you focus on other aspects of your work (or simply on getting a good night's rest!).

What areas of law do you practice in and research? What can you write? My practice for non-lawyers has focussed on family litigation, civil litigation, and small business law, but I take on research and writing projects of any description, and am are eager to try new things. I am familiar with, and maintain a precedent library of, common civil litigation documents, but we are happy to adapt our style to yours. If you like, we can emulate your firm's own documents and ghostwrite for you as seamlessly as possible. I can also work collaboratively with you during large-scale research and writing projects, such as written submissions for trials and other hearings.

On what basis do I hire you? How do I retain you? I work on an independent contract basis, project by project and do not come with the financial liabilities or other expectations that come with employees, students-at-law and junior lawyers. I work through my employer, Chatwin LLP.

How do you deliver your research products? Typically I deliver in a digital format, either .docx or .pdf, in the interests of speed, cost, and editability.

I'm not a lawyer, but I need one. Can Orion Legal Research help me? Orion Legal Research is oriented towards assisting lawyers, firms, and organizations, rather than the public directly. For your non-research needs, contact Chatwin LLP and ask for Chris.

I'm a law student. Can you help me with a paper or project? I do not provide research assistance on academic matters.

About Time and Cost

What do you charge? Our business model cuts the costs of a traditional law practice so that we can research with maximum efficiency. We typically charge on an hourly basis, but our hourly rate is much lower than a lawyer of comparable experience working in a full-service law firm. Our base research and writing rate is $125.00 per hour. We also charge a lower hourly rate for aspects of our work which are not "lawyerly", such as travel and document production. For certain Legal Aid files, we may lower our rates to Legal Aid rates. We are also happy to discuss and negotiate flat fees for routine research and writing projects.

How do you estimate total costs? I base our estimates on past similar work, and usually budget slightly higher than expected to avoid unexpected cost overruns. A good bellwether for typical research is a research memorandum. Presently, I aim to complete the research, writing, and editing of a research memorandum within 3 to 5 hours of billable time. Ghostwriting typically adds a few hours on top of research.

How long does research take? How much advance notice do you need? My research practices discourage rushing work where it is not necessary to do so, but we understand that practicing law is dynamic, with issues arising suddenly and demanding immediate answers. 5 business days is a comfortable time frame for most research projects. For larger research and writing projects, such as a trial brief or factum, I encourage contacting me well in advance so that I can set aside time to work for you, or refer you to another researcher and writer.

Do you value bill for urgent work? I do not shy away from urgent work and avoid the practice of value-billing for my time. I do not like to take advantage of lawyers who are pressed for time because, believe me, I've been there.

About Confidentiality, Conflicts and Professional Responsibility

Are you insured? Yes. I am an active, practicing members of the Law Society of Alberta and maintain insurance coverage as required by my regulator.

Do you provide legal advice? Some research lawyers hold themselves out as providing only information, and will typically restrict themselves to researching and reporting the law. I believe separating information and advice does not provide the best value to our clients, and so I reject this approach. Working as part of another lawyer's team tends to take on an advisory aspect.

Are you co-counsel? I do not work directly for your clients like a member of your firm would, or like co-counsel, but I am happy to discuss my work with you and your client together. Exceptions may exist in special circumstances, but typically we help you help your client and do not form lawyer-client relationships directly with them.

How do you handle confidentiality? The lawyers I do research work for are my clients. I owe them, and they can expect, the same confidentiality that they owe their clients.

How do you handle conflicts of interest? I collect and digitize information not only on the lawyers we work for, but on their matters as well. All this information informs our practices for avoiding conflicts of interest. I never work where there is a conflict between our clients, or my clients' clients.

What information do you need? I avoid research and writing work without knowing who it is for, and require information sufficient for a thorough conflict check at the minimum. Often, however, our work falls under the an exception for lawyers acting as agents for other lawyers, allowing us to forego client ID rules in most circumstances.