If you are unhappy with your lawyer's bill, you can:
You should always talk to your lawyer first. You can do this over the phone, in person, or in writing. Your lawyer may be willing to negotiate with you or offer to provide you with an itemised bill, if you do not already have one.
An itemised bill may help you identify the work carried out by your lawyer. However, the itemised bill may be higher than the original lump sum bill. A lawyer may charge a higher itemised bill if it replaces the lump sum bill in some situations. The lump sum bill must tell you that the law firm reserves the right to amend the bill in the event of an itemised bill being requested, or if the letters 'E & OE' or a similar expression is shown on the bill.
If your lawyer is unwilling to negotiate or you think the bill is still too expensive, you can complain to the Office of the Legal Services Commissioner (OLSC).
The Office of the Legal Services Commissioner (OLSC) is a free service that can assist you and your lawyer to negotiate costs.
If you are unable to resolve your dispute with your lawyer you can complain to the OLSC within 60 days of receiving your bill, or within 30 days after an itemised bill was issued.
The OLSC can make a binding determination up to the amount of $10,000.
The process is a quick, cost effective method compared to a formal Supreme Court assessment.
For more information, go to the
Office of the Legal Services Commissioner (OLSC) website.
An independent costs assessor will look at your bill and calculate whether your lawyer has overcharged you. This is called a 'costs assessment'.
The filing fee payable for an assessment is:
(a) $100 or
(b) 1% of the unpaid bill or
(c) 1% of the total costs in dispute.
You may also have to pay the fee of the costs assessor unless your lawyer did not make any disclosure in which case your lawyer will have to pay the fee.
You must apply for a costs assessment within 12 months of receiving your bill. If you ask for an itemised bill after a lump sum bill was issued, you have 12 months from the date of the lump sum bill.
Once the assessor has made a decision, they will provide you with a Certificate of Determination that can be enforced by your lawyer. If you are unhappy with the assessor's decision you can apply for a review.
After the review, if the original determination is increased or decreased by less than 15% you will have to pay the costs of the review. Before applying for a review, you should get
If your lawyer makes an application for costs assessment, you have 21 days to lodge any objection.
For more information, go to the 'Costs Assessment' section of the
Supreme Court website.
If you are unhappy with your lawyer, you may be able to make a complaint.
For more information, see
Complaints about a lawyer.