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Costs recovery tips

Costs recovery tips

By John Colonna


How to maximise costs recovery for your client.

As a costs lawyer, I am frequently asked by practitioners the following. “My client has an order for costs in their favour. How do I maximise costs recovery?” This question is usually asked too late, often when proceedings are final and all the hard work is done.

Lawyers need to be proactive when it comes to ensuring they are getting the most out of their file. The following tips will help you to maximise your recovery either through negotiations with your opponent or if the matter proceeds to taxation in the Costs Court.

Keeping comprehensive file notes

Such a simple thing to do, but often done badly. Keeping file notes can be a bother, particularly when you are busy, but they are crucial to getting the most out of your file for your client. Always provide plenty of detailed descriptions in your file notes for telephone attendances and conferences. Avoid generic descriptions like “attending client to discuss matter generally” and “attending counsel to discuss strategy”. It is crucial file notes provide enough information that if a registrar from the Costs Court were to read the note, they would understand the substance of the attendance. Other critical information you should include in a file note:

  • the person who attended (this is important as Scales of Costs provide different rates for legal practitioners and clerks)
  • to whom you spoke
  • the date and time of the attendance
  • the duration of the attendance.


Filing of all correspondence is extremely important; if correspondence is not there then it will not be recovered at taxation.

Ideally, all correspondence enclosing documents should include a detailed description of those documents and a page count for those documents on the covering letter. It is not sufficient to simply refer to documents as being enclosed “as requested”.

Keeping copies of drafts of documents

Often pleadings and other documents, initially drafted by a practitioner, are sent to counsel for settling. It is important to keep a record of all draft and superseded documents sent to counsel. You may be able to recover, as part of your client’s claim for costs, drafting of the initial document, as well as the approval of the final document settled by counsel.

Court attendances – travel and waiting time

Attendances at hearings should be broken into travel time, conferences with client and counsel, and the time taken for the hearing itself. If the court requires you to attend at a particular time and you find yourself waiting prior to the hearing, that waiting time may be a recoverable cost.

John Colonna is principal costs lawyer and manager, LIV Costs Lawyers.

Click here for information on the LIV Costing Fundamentals workshop on 6 June 2018.

For assistance with your own costing matter, please contact LIV Costs Lawyers using the information below.

T: 03 9607 9403

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