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Legal Costs: Quick tips to ensure your practice is compliant under the Uniform Law

Legal Costs: Quick tips to ensure your practice is compliant under the Uniform Law

By John Colonna, LIV Costs Lawyers

Disclosure Uniform Laws 

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Few practitioners would disagree with the proposition that legal practice is the most heavily regulated profession.

The introduction of the Legal Profession Uniform Law in 2015 brought about significant changes in costs procedures, the effects of which are still being understood today. Some lawyers may see these provisions as confusing and difficult to understand.

Below are some common costing queries I receive from practitioners which may assist you in ensuring your practice is remaining compliant under the Uniform Law.

1. My client has requested an itemised bill. Can I pass on the cost of having the bill drawn onto the client?

No, this is a client’s right under the Uniform Law. Section 191 provides a law practice must not make a charge for preparing a bill.

2. My client has requested an itemised bill which has come out significantly more than the lump sum bill. Am I able to rely on the higher amount and recover the additional costs?

Yes, provided disclosure was made in your lump sum invoice indicating the total amount of legal costs specified in any itemised bill may be higher than the amount specified in the lump sum bill (Rule 74). This marks a key difference with the Legal Profession Act 2004 (Vic) where notification did not need to be provided in an invoice.

3. The client retained my law practice some time ago for the provision of legal services. I have rendered a number of invoices to the client, all of which have been paid. Is the client still able to review my fees?

A client has 12 months from the date of the last invoice rendered by a firm to review a whole or part of legal costs. This means, for example, if a firm rendered 10 invoices to a client over a two year period (in relation to one matter), the client has 12 months from the date of the last invoice to review all invoices rendered by the firm in connection with that matter. This is provided for under section 198(3). If 12 months have passed, the client will need to make an application to the Practice Court to extend time.

4. My client has not paid my fees. Am I able to commence recovery proceedings?

Yes and no. A lawyer cannot commence recovery of legal costs in circumstances where disclosure obligations have not been met. In this case your legal costs must be assessed before you can enforce them (s178(1)).

5. My client is a sophisticated client. Do I need to provide them with a disclosure statement?

Generally speaking no. If the client falls within the definition of "commercial and government clients", section 170 provides part 4.3 relating to costs does not apply save for provisions relating to costs agreements. This commonly seen where a lawyer retains another lawyer.

6. I anticipate my clients costs being more than $750.00 but not that much higher. Do I still need to provide the client with a disclosure statement?

Where costs are unlikely to exceed $3,000.00 (before adding GST and disbursements) you are able to provide the client with a standard costs disclosure form. This a one page document which streamlines the cost disclosure process. The form contains the following information:

  • law practice and client details
  • the work the law practice will do
  • the basis for calculating costs
  • an estimate of costs.

Where costs are likely to exceed $3,000.00, then full disclosure needs to be made to the client in writing.

John Colonna is the principal costs lawyer and manager of LIV Costs Lawyers. John is able to assist you with a range of costing services, including preparation of assessments, bills of costs, negotiations of costs and appearances in the Costs Court.

T: 03 9607 9403
E: costing@liv.asn.au
W: www.livcostslawyers.com.au


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