Terms of Business
These terms of business disclose information about the costs of our legal services, and our clients’ rights, as required by the Legal Profession Act 2004 NSW (the Act). Our clients may negotiate and enter into costs agreements with us, based on the information contained in these terms (as modified by the particular costs agreement).
- Acceptance of offer
If we make an offer to enter into a costs agreement with a client and the client accepts the offer, the client will be regarded as having entered into a costs agreement with us. This means the client will be bound by these terms of business (as modified by the particular costs agreement), including being billed in accordance with them. Acceptance may be by any one of the following ways:
- Signing and returning a copy of the costs agreement;
- Giving us instructions after receiving the costs agreement;
- Oral acceptance.
Failure to accept our offer within 7 days of dispatch of the costs agreement can result in the immediate withdrawal of our offer to act on behalf of the client.
- Termination of agreement
- We will not continue to do the work for a client: if the client fails to pay our bills; if the client fails to provide us with adequate instructions within a reasonable time; if the client gives instructions that are deliberately false or intentionally misleading; if the client fails to accept an offer of settlement which we think is reasonable; if the client fails to accept advice we (or counsel) give the client; if the client engages another law practice to advise the client on any matter without our consent; if we, on reasonable grounds, believe that we may have a conflict of interest, or if the client indicates to us that we have lost the client’s confidence; or for other just cause.
We will give a client at least fourteen (14) days’ notice of our intention to terminate our agreement on any of the grounds stated in the preceding paragraph, stating the grounds on which the notice is based.
We may also terminate a costs agreement by giving a client at least one (1) month’s notice in writing at any time, provided there is no work that the client has instructed us to undertake which is incomplete at that time.
A client may terminate a costs agreement with us at any time.
- If a costs agreement is terminated either by a client or us, the client will be required to pay our professional fees and charges for work done, and for expenses and disbursements incurred, up to the date of termination. For lump sum fee matters, the client must pay the part of our lump sum fee that we reasonably estimate has been incurred in respect of the legal services provided to the client up to the date of termination, plus charges, expenses and disbursements, subject to the client’s right to a costs assessment. The client will be liable to pay our costs whether or not the other party to any court proceedings has to pay the client’s costs of the proceedings.
On termination, we are entitled to retain possession of our client’s papers and documents while there is money owing to us for our charges and expenses, unless and until security is provided for our costs.
- Retention of clients’ documents
We will, on completion of any work, retain any papers to which a client is entitled, but leaves in our possession (except documents deposited in safe custody) for no more than seven (7) years and on the undertaking that we have the client’s authority to destroy the file seven years after the date of the final bill rendered by us in the matter.
- Privacy protection
Personal information about a client, provided by the client and other sources, is protected under the Privacy Amendment (Private Sector) Act 2000. Disclosure of such information may be compelled by law (eg. under the Social Security Act). Each client also authorises us to disclose such information where necessary to others in furtherance of the client’s claim/matter (eg. within the law practice, to the Court, the other party or parties to litigation, to valuers, experts, barristers etc).
- Money on account
We may ask a client to pay us, in advance, some money on account of payments which will be made to others and our costs.
- Authorisation to transfer money from trust account
Each client authorises us to receive directly into our trust account any judgment or settlement money or money received from any source in furtherance of the client’s work, and to pay ourselves our costs, disbursements and expenses upon sending the client our bill of costs requesting payment.
All rates, charges, expenses, etc in these terms are GST-exclusive unless otherwise stated. Where a service provided is subject to GST, GST at the prevailing rate from time to time will be added and charged.
- Costs-how calculated
- Professional Fees
We charge professional fees for the work we do at different hourly rates, according to the seniority and experience of the person(s) who do the work. We give our clients notice of those hourly rates when we offer to enter into costs agreements with them. The rates are proportionately charged for work involving shorter periods less than an hour. Our charges are structured in 6 minutes units. For example, the time charged for an attendance of up to 6 minutes will be 6 minutes and the time charged for an attendance between 6 and 12 minutes will be 12 minutes.
We charge our clients for services we use or supply, e.g., photocopying, telephone calls and faxes. We give our clients notice of the rates for those services when we offer to enter into costs agreements with them.
- Expenses & disbursements
We may incur expenses and disbursements (being money which we pay or are liable to pay) to others on behalf of our clients. These may include fees for:
Advertisements; agents; barristers; certificates; couriers; document production; enquiries; filing documents; inspections; process servers; registrations; reports; searches; stamp duty; surveys; transcripts; travel; valuations; witness expenses.
We inform our clients of these expenses and disbursements as well as any other payments required to be made, as soon as is reasonably practicable.
- Variation of fee and charge rates
All our fee and charge rates are subject to change from time to time. We will give our clients not less than 1 month’s notice in writing of any changes.
- Estimate of costs
- We provide an estimate of the cost of the work each time a client gives us instructions, provided the cost is estimated to be more than $750.00, excluding GST.
- Each estimate we give is an estimate, not a quotation and is subject to change.
- Clients’ right to a bill of costs
Clients are entitled to receive a bill of costs from us. If we send a client a lump sum bill, the client may request an itemised bill within 30 days of receipt of the lump sum bill.
- Billing arrangements
We will send each client a bill of costs containing information of our professional fees and charges, disbursements and expenses, including GST, either after completion of the work, or monthly, or at other times as agreed with the client, when the work is in progress.
- Interest on unpaid costs
If our costs are not paid within 30 days of receipt by a client of our bill of costs, we may charge the client interest on the unpaid amount at the rate prescribed in Regulation 110A (as amended) of the Legal Profession Regulation 2005.
- Dispute as to legal costs
The Act gives our clients the right to: apply to the Supreme Court to have the bill of costs assessed for its fairness and reasonableness by a Costs Assessor; or to have the dispute mediated; or a costs agreement set aside by the Costs Assessor on the basis that it is not fair, just or reasonable. Applications for assessment should be made before the expiry of 60 days after receipt of the bill of costs, or request for payment of costs made by us, or full payment made to us, whichever is the earliest.
- Persons responsible for each matter and legal costs
Each time a client gives us instructions we will tell the client who will be responsible for the matter. The client may contact that person regarding the matter and the legal costs.
- Substantial changes to disclosure
We will inform our clients for whom we are acting at the time, as soon as is reasonably practicable, of any substantial changes to anything contained in these terms of business.
- Progress reports
Our clients are entitled to request, at reasonable intervals, written progress reports on their matters. Our normal charge-out rates will apply for this service. Each client is entitled to request a written report on the legal costs incurred to date since the last bill of costs was given to the client, free of charge.
- Engagement of another law practice
It may be necessary for us to engage, on a client’s behalf, the services of another law practice to provide specialist advice or services, including advocacy services, or to act as our agent. We will consult the client as to the terms of that law practice’s engagement, but the client may be asked to enter into a costs agreement directly with that law practice. The law practice engaged by us will disclose costs in a similar manner and we will disclose those costs to our client.
- Costs in court proceedings
- If we take court proceedings on behalf of a client, the court may order the other party to pay the client’s costs of the proceedings. This sum will not necessarily cover the whole of the client’s legal costs due to us. It is possible that the court may make an order that the client pay the other party’s costs (if, for instance, the client loses the case). These costs are payable by the client to the other party in addition to the costs payable to us.
- Before commencing court proceedings on behalf of a client, we will provide the client with estimates of:
- The range of costs that may be recovered from the other party if the client is successful in the litigation.
- The other party’s costs that the client may be ordered to pay if the client is unsuccessful in the litigation, based on our estimate of what the other party’s law practice may charge.
- If settlement of a client’s claim is being negotiated, we will provide the client before settlement with:
- A reasonable estimate of our costs payable by the client on settlement;
- A reasonable estimate of the costs the client would obtain from the other party on settlement if the settlement is favourable to the client;
- A reasonable estimate of the costs that the client may have to pay the other party (eg., if the client’s case is weak, etc).
- Applicable law
The law of NSW applies to legal costs regarding each client’s matter. Each client is, however, able to enter into a costs agreement with us on the basis that the corresponding law of another State or Territory is applicable if the matter has a substantial connection with that State or Territory. In that event, we will disclose costs as they are applicable in that State or Territory. Clients have the right to contract with us that the costs assessment scheme in NSW is applicable, in the event of any dispute as to costs arising with us.