View the latest news in costs law from sources such as the Law Institute Journal, submissions, media releases, blogs and more.

Read More

Joining the Costs Law Section is a great way to stay up to date on this dynamic area of law, meet influential lawyers and shape future legislation.

Read More

Read about LIV costs precedents, disclosure requirements under the Uniform Law, establishing a costs agreement, how to price legal work and more.

Read More

Costs Law

Costs law impacts all practitioners – whether working in litigation, transactional, criminal, family law, advocacy or advisory work – as it covers the practitioner-client relationship, what lawyers can charge and, most importantly, the requirements for a valid engagement with a client.

A second focus is the costs which are recoverable or payable by a party in litigation and costs which are payable under contractual terms or other arrangements. This can involve proceedings to assess the quantum of costs, preparing cost budgets in litigation, advising on cost orders and advising practitioners on the best way to manage their files to maximise cost recovery.

A third focus is providing expert opinions in security for costs litigation, gross sum cost application and applications for approval of costs.

Accredited Specialisation in Costs Law

Accredited Specialisation in Costs Law has operated for six years and is the only Australian program for accreditation of costs lawyers. Accreditation recognises that costs law specialists demonstrate superior knowledge, experience and proficiency. It provides confidence to those engaging accredited costs lawyers of their enhanced skill levels and expertise in both lawyer-client and inter partes costs law. Components of the assessment program test both written and advocacy skills, as well as requiring a demonstration of deep legal knowledge. 

Contact

For more information about costs law activities and advocacy, contact the senior lawyer of the Costs Law Section at:

E: CostLawSection@liv.asn.au
T: 03 9607 9318

  • National Costs Law Conference

    This conference will offer insights and practical guidance on the complexities of costs law in Australia. The LIV is delighted to host The Honourable Justice Bernard Michael Murphy as our keynote speaker.

    Fri 17 Feb - 09:00 AM
    RACV City Club

    501 Bourke St, Melbourne

    Read more
  • Legal Profession Uniform Law

    View fact sheets, precedents, articles and other resources to help you understand how you and your law practice may be affected by the Uniform Law.



    Read more

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Where do I find a costs lawyer?

    Costs law is an accredited specialisation and a list of those who are accredited cost law specialists can be found here.  Cost lawyers (as opposed to non-lawyer cost consultants) are fully qualified lawyers holding practising certificates, who have a right of audience in the Cost Court and other courts, and like all other practitioners, owe ethical and professional obligations to their clients and are fully insured. When you engage a cost lawyer to assist, legal professional privilege is maintained.

    Cost lawyers can help prepare bills of costs or objections to bills of costs, appear at taxations and provide advice on cost orders and expert evidence about costs issues. Such evidence includes reports for applications for security for costs, gross sum cost and approval of costs. 

    In addition to accredited specialists, there are other freelance costs lawyers, including the LIV Cost Lawyers service. LIV Cost Lawyers is a commercial enterprise law firm operated by the LIV, providing the same services as other cost lawyers. LIV Cost Lawyers is not a regulatory body nor an independent arbitrator and is not associated with the Legal Service Commissioner. The LIV Cost Lawyers page can be found here.

  • Where do I find the current scales of costs?

    The current and previous scales of costs can be found here.

  • Where do I find compliance information about the Uniform Law?

    Information about the Legal Profession Uniform Law can be found here.

  • How do I calculate my estimate of costs under the Uniform Law?

    The Uniform Law applies to all matters where first instructions were provided after 1 July 2015.  It requires that practitioners disclose an estimate of “total legal costs” to all clients other than “commercial or government” clients, before or at the time of retainer.

    “Total legal costs” means professional charges, disbursements (including counsel’s fees), and GST and the Legal Services Commissioner has advised that they are the likely total costs for the whole of the retainer.  Therefore, if a solicitor is retained to conduct litigation, they are the costs of proceeding to judgment, unless the retainer is limited to some earlier point in the proceeding.

    There has been considerable concern that practitioners are not able to provide a range of estimates. The Legal Services Commissioners have advised that the provisions do not preclude a practitioner providing a range of estimates, or estimates by stage/phase in addition to the single estimate of total legal costs.

    The Legal Services Commissioner has noted that the estimate must be a reasonable assessment of the likely total costs.  Whether or not the estimate is reasonable would be judged without the benefit of hindsight and having regard to the level of information available to the practitioner at the time of provision of the estimate. However, the expectation is that the practitioner will tailor the estimate to the facts and circumstances of the particular matter rather than adopting a “proforma” or “tick the box” approach to estimating.

    However, it is not unreasonable for the practitioner to have regard to their previous experience about the level of costs incurred in similar matters when considering the appropriate estimate.

    Practitioners are obliged to make continuing disclosure, which involves updating an estimate immediate upon becoming aware of the estimate being likely to be inaccurate. The Legal Services Commissioner has issued guidelines indicating that updates to estimates should be provided within 14 days of becoming aware of the need to update.

    Finally, practitioners should note the additional obligations of the Uniform Law requiring a practitioner take all reasonable steps to ensure the client has given informed consent to the proposed course of conduct and the costs of same. This obligation extends to obtaining consent to changed estimates.

  • What is the difference between party/party, standard and indemnity costs?

    In Victoria, the prima facie basis of an award of costs is the standard basis, there no longer being a party/party basis.  The previous party/party test for recovery of costs was “necessary or proper”, where the standard basis test is “reasonably incurred and of a reasonable amount”.

    An order for indemnity costs allows recovery of costs on a more generous basis than that normally applying. The test to be applied in an award of indemnity costs is “all costs other than those that have been unreasonably incurred or are of an unreasonable amount. In Victorian jurisdictions, the rules move the onus of proof of unreasonableness onto the paying party, creating a bias in favour of the receiving party, providing that any doubts which the Taxing Officer has as to whether the costs were reasonably incurred or were reasonable in amount shall be resolved in favour of the receiving party. 

    It is important to note that, in Victorian jurisdictions, an order for indemnity costs still requires the costs to be calculated by reference to the relevant scale unless the order providing for indemnity costs also provides that such costs are to be allowed in accordance with a costs agreement. 

  • How do I apply to have costs assessed?

    Applications to have the costs of a lawyer assessed are made to the Supreme Court Costs Court by summons. No fee is payable. The Costs Court has jurisdiction in relation review to all lawyer/client cost disputes, irrespective of the fact that they may relate to litigation in federal jurisdictions. For further information see here.

    Where a complaint has already been made to the Legal Services Commissioner, an application for review of the lawyer’s costs cannot be made until after the complaint has dealt with and the LSC has advised the parties of their entitlement to apply for a cost assessment (s197 of the Uniform Law). Where the LSC has made a binding determination on a dispute under s292 of the Uniform Law, the costs may not be the subject of a cost assessment.

    Applications to have a bill of costs pursuant to an order of the court depend on the jurisdiction:

    • For all Victorian Courts and VCAT, the application is made by summons to the Supreme Court Costs Court. It is necessary to complete an information sheet before filing the application. For further information see here.
    • In Federal and High Court matters, a bill of costs is filed and the Taxing Officers generally undertake an estimate of the costs in chambers, in the absence of the parties.  It is then open to a party to object to the estimate and seek a full taxation of costs. For further information, see here.