Understanding Your Legal Costs

The thought of engaging a lawyer to act on your behalf in any type of legal matter can be quite daunting and overwhelming especially when you think about how much it will cost you. While you may be apprehensive and a little embarrassed to talk about costs, it is very important that you raise the issue of costs with your lawyer at the first meeting.

Discussing how your lawyer charges will ensure that you have a clear understanding of the legal fees you are going to incur. As legal practitioners we have an obligation to ensure that we disclose to clients the basis on which legal costs will be calculated. Your lawyer will issue you a ‘costs agreement’ which will outline how they charge and the scope of the work that they have been engaged to do.

A costs agreement will set out how the firm charges. You can expect that your lawyer will charge you for all the work they do on your matter. This includes telephone calls, emails, reading documents, drafting material, attendance at Court or any conferences. Generally, lawyers charge an hourly rate and usually in six-minute increments. You should seek to clarify how your lawyer charges to avoid bill shock.

Your lawyer does not have to provide you with a costs agreement if the work that will be carried out is estimated to cost less than $1,500 (excluding GST). In any event, your lawyer should disclose to you an estimate of their costs.

What is included in your Costs Agreement

Your lawyer must inform you in writing the following:

  • How costs are calculated (how they charge);
  • An estimate of the total cost, noting that this estimate must be realistic;
  • The scope of the work the lawyer has been engaged to perform and what is not included;
  • Your right to:
    • Negotiate the costs;
    • Receive a bill;
    • Request an itemized bill;
    • Be notified of any significant changes that could affect the cost;
    • Apply for a costs assessment if you dispute your bill and the time limits that apply;
    • Know how often you will be billed;
    • Receive updates on your matter;
    • Know the interest rate charged on overdue amounts.

If you have a question regarding your invoice, you should in the first instance speak to your lawyer about your costs. It is important to keep these things in mind when you engage a lawyer and if you are wanting to reduce your costs consider ways that are more cost effective in communicating with them.

The team at Miller Sockhill Lawyers ensure you are kept informed of not only the progress of your matter, but the fees associated with it. We pride ourselves on being transparent and flexible with our legal costs and will work with you to ensure that you get the best representation at very reasonable costs.