WCB Lawyers versus WCB Advocates: Understanding the Differences

WCB Lawyers versus WCB Advocates

Today we address a number of frequently asked questions related to the differences between WCB lawyers and WCB advocates.

WCB advocate (aka WCB representative) refers to an individual, or firm, that formally or informally acts on behalf of an injured worker or employer. And the reasons for retaining an advocate instead of a WCB lawyer truly run the gamut. Injured workers often appoint advocates because they’d rather focus on their recovery than on the business of WCB. Or because WCB has perhaps denied compensation and the worker needs someone to make it right. Or the worker just wants someone with experience to shepherd their safe passage through the labyrinth called WCB.

Employers, on the other hand, engage representatives for different reasons. WCB premiums are typically a sizable line item on a company’s P&L, and more claims translate into higher premiums. In addition, for those who operate in safety-sensitive and high-risk industries, a substandard WCB rating can entail huge opportunity costs i.e., disqualification from tenders, deterrence of key customers, impairment of M&A valuation, reputational damage, and so forth. Hence, an advocate’s tasks commonly include advising clients on points of policy and preparing case briefs for filing with the DRDRB or the Appeals Commission. In simple lingo, employers want advocates to control their insurance costs, safeguard bidding power, and otherwise manage their WCB account to ensure a good standing.

Do WCB advocates have law degrees?

Advocates are not generally WCB lawyers by trade. While workers’ compensation is ultimately governed by statutory law, the case-by-case adjudication and management of individual claims is dictated by WCB’s policy manual. In other words, the day-to-day business of workers’ compensation doesn’t involve litigation, nor is the Board bound by judicial precedent, nor is the quasi-judicial body (aka the Appeals Commission) who reviews entitlement decisions identical to a court of law.

Not to say that having a legal background is any sort of liability. That said, successful advocates have normally completed a tour of duty through the Board itself, have experience elsewhere in the public sector, are acquainted with proceedings common to administrative tribunals, and/or possess executive-level industry experience. What it all boils down to is this: the responsibility for adjudicating benefits stemming from workplace injuries was long ago bestowed to a bureau named WCB, not the Canadian judiciary. For this reason, many practitioners of law will feel decidedly out of their element when traversing the WCB domain.

Compensation Structures for WCB Advocates compared to WCB Lawyers

WCB advocates usually charge for their services through one of three remuneration schemes: fee-for-service, contingency, or hybrid fee-contingency agreements.

  • Fee-for-service: The advocate logs their time and charges accordingly, regardless of the case outcome.
  • Contingency: The advocate’s remuneration is contingent upon the case outcome, with the advocate taking a percentage of the “winnings.”
  • Hybrid fee-contingency: A blend of fee-for-service and contingency, where the advocate charges an hourly amount plus a lower contingency percentage.

Take for example, an advocate who charges $150 per hour and spends 10 hours preparing an appeal would send a bill for $1500, an amount payable regardless of the appeal outcome. Were that same advocate to instead charge on a contingency basis, remuneration would become subject to (or contingent upon) the outcome of an appeal instead of time allotment. This means that, versus charging by the hour, the advocate takes a percentage — say 30% — of the “winnings” as it were. And so, to carry this example further, the advocate receives nothing for his 10 hours if the appeal fails. However, supposing the appeal culminated in a WCB award on the order of $100,000, the advocate would be entitled to $30,000.

The hybrid revenue model, as you’ve probably guessed, is simply a blend of fee-for-service and contingency, whereby an advocate charges some hourly amount (in exchange for a lower contingency percentage) notwithstanding the outcome of a decision challenge.

The Blue Collar way

How does all this relate to Blue Collar? Well, to sum up, Blue Collar advocates both for workers and employers. And not only advocacy, but we also proactively mitigate disability via early intervention strategies and return-to-work planning. In exchange for these services we charge by the hour and ask for nothing more. Moreover, Blue Collar is a private Edmonton-based firm that is separate and entirely distinct from WCB. Our advocates aren’t WCB lawyers, but as industry veterans, we bring years of WCB advocacy, deep policy & statutory knowledge, executive-level industry experience, and a special brand of tenacity to the table.

Thanks for reading, and if you have further questions, never hesitate to call us. With an office in Edmonton and an office soon to open in Calgary, Blue Collar serves all corners of Alberta.

Call (780)-340-5727 to speak with our 541 Eagleson Wynd, Edmonton T6M 0Y4 team for free.
Ben Barfett

Ben Barfett

Ben Barfett, Principal and Consultant, has spent his life in the construction sector, specifically heavy civil, enviro, commercial, and energy. Having held senior roles in business development, technical advisory, and regional management, he earned his stripes in the field and in head office. Conscious of the interplay between commercial, legal, and execution aspects of construction, his business insights are informed by expertise in WCB policy and enhanced with disability-specific training.

Ben Barfett

Ben Barfett

Ben Barfett, Principal and Consultant, has spent his life in the construction sector, specifically heavy civil, enviro, commercial, and energy. Having held senior roles in business development, technical advisory, and regional management, he earned his stripes in the field and in head office. Conscious of the interplay between commercial, legal, and execution aspects of construction, his business insights are informed by expertise in WCB policy and enhanced with disability-specific training.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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