This is a question that I am frequently asked by prospective clients. And it is an important question to ask.
If you retain my services, you can rest assured that I will be personally preparing and conducting your case. That is not true of all criminal lawyers, however. Sadly, it is not unheard of for a client to retain a senior lawyer to handle his case, only to show up for trial and find it being handled by a junior lawyer. Not only is that unfair to the client, depending on the experience level of the junior lawyer, it can lead to serious consequences. A particularly disastrous example of what can happen can be found here.*
All cases require a number of interim, “remand” appearances before trial. Those are appearances where the matter is simply being adjourned as disclosure is being provided, lawyers are being retained or trial dates are being arranged. In those very limited circumstances, with your instructions, I may have an agent appear for me (and for you) for the sole purpose of adjourning the matter. The main reason for doing this is to save you the expense of having me travel to and attend court for what is simply a pro forma appearance. It would be an utter waste of money to have me fly, for example, to another city for the sake of an adjournment that can take two minutes or less of actual court time.
Fortunately, the need for personal attendances at these brief appearances is increasingly rare since the Crown prosecutor will sometimes agree, by pre-arrangement, to simply adjourn a matter without the need for counsel or the accused to attend. One bright side to the Covid-19 pandemic has been that the courts are increasingly flexible in permitting counsel and accused persons to appear remotely, – ie by phone or Microsoft Teams. This has benefit of significantly reducing the cost and inconvenience of these minor appearances.
*Note: Fortunately for the accused in the case of R. v. Lam, the B.C. Court of Appeal allowed the accused’s appeal of this decision permitted him to withdraw his guilty plea on the basis that his lawyer had not properly informed him of the consequences of the plea. This is not before months of uncertainty and the expenditure of thousands of dollars in legal fees to undo the damage.