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New costs disclosure concept to create more "harmonised" approach

New costs disclosure concept to create more

By Karin Derkley

Practice Management Uniform Laws 

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The Legal Services Council is looking into a costs disclosure concept it says will create a more harmonised approach across jurisdictions and provide better protection for both law practices and consumers.

The Legal Services Council (LSC) monitors the overall operation of the Legal Profession Uniform Framework and ensures it is applied consistently.

In its Annual Report, the LSC says the push for improving the costs disclosure regime under Uniform Law was motivated by its Australia-wide survey that found most legal services consumers want lawyers to inform them in writing of their fees, regardless of the fee involved.

Consumers told the survey that only just over half of lawyers informed them of likely costs. Those that did, told them in spoken words, and only 14 per cent used a costs agreement or costs disclosure document.

Most consumers surveyed were also not aware that the costs disclosure form was an estimate only and not a quote.

The LSC and Commissioner are considering a number of options to simplify the costs disclosure regime, including an alternative form that would be possible for matters up to the value of $5,000.

In reviewing the options, the LSC says that practitioners should be able to quickly and easily update the form for changes in costs or circumstances, that the form should provide better, more useful, and better placed information about clients' rights, and that it should be clear that the form is an estimate only and is not a quote by placing this information more prominently.

In the Annual Report, the chair of the LSC, Michael Black, also indicated that a third major jurisdiction had expressed a "strong interest" in joining the Uniform Law regime. At present only Victoria and NSW are party to the regime.


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