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Legal costs

Legal costs

Disclosure of legal costs

If you hire a lawyer and their work will likely cost more than $1,500 they must give you a written estimate of anticipated costs.  This should include:

  • an estimate of how much the legal work might cost in total; and
  • how they will charge (ie, hourly rates, fixed rates etc).

An estimate of legal costs can be within a range (ie, $3,000 - $5,000) and might be broken down into stages (ie, up to filing a claim, up until trial, for a trial of 2 weeks etc).

If you are unhappy with what your lawyer has charged you, you can make a complaint to the Commissioner.  You should first try to resolve your issues with your lawyer.

The Commissioner’s powers address complaints in relation to legal costs are limited, and there is some overlap between the role of the Commissioner and the role of the Courts.  The Commissioner must investigate complaints of overcharging which are received within 2 years of the law practice having provided the final bill to which the complaint relates.  He has a discretion to allow a longer period within which a complaint of overcharging can be made where he considers that there is a good explanation for the delay.

The Commissioner may arrange for disputed legal costs to be assessed by a costs assessor, and he must do so before he can make a binding determination as to whether there has been overcharging.  The Commissioner may require the complainant to pay the reasonable costs of the costs assessment upfront.  The cost of getting such an assessment will vary depending on the nature and size of the lawyer’s file to be assessed. If the complaint is upheld, then that amount may be repaid to the complainant.

At the conclusion of an investigation into a complaint of overcharging, the Commissioner will prepare a report on the results of the investigation.  The Commissioner can make a binding determination in relation to costs, but only where the costs
have been assessed by a costs assessor and the amount in dispute does not exceed $50,000.  Regardless of the amount in dispute the Commissioner can make a recommendation about the costs charged.  A recommendation is not binding.

Please read the Commissioner's Fact Sheet for more information.