Solicitors are required by law to inform their clients about how they are going to charge and tell them about their rights. This is called 'disclosure'. Your solicitor must inform you in writing about the costs of the work (if estimated to be more than $750) and the expenses that you have to pay.
When should my solicitor disclose?
In most cases, disclosure must be made before the solicitor commences to act for you. If it is not practical for disclosure to be made before work begins, it should be done as soon as the solicitor has the opportunity to do so.
How should disclosure be made?
Disclosure may be set out in a costs agreement or a letter. The agreement or letter must tell you:
- the amount you will be charged or how you will be charged
- that you are entitled to:
- negotiate the costs agreement
- receive a bill for work done and an itemised bill upon your request after receiving a lump sum bill
- receive the estimated costs
- receive progress reports about your case and about your costs
- have the bill assessed
- ask a Costs Assessor to set aside the costs agreement if it is not fair, just or reasonable
- have any dispute about the costs mediated
- the billing arrangements
- the rate of any interest that you will be charged for overdue costs
- if it is a court matter, the costs you will get back if you win and the costs you will have to pay if you lose and the gap between what your solicitor will charge you and what you will be reimbursed
- who you can contact about costs
- the applicable time limits when disputing costs
- whether NSW law applies to legal costs in your matter
- how a barrister or other lawyer would charge you if one is retained
- if the work is done on a ‘no win, no pay’ basis, the additional cost for working for you on this basis and why this additional cost is warranted.
If your solicitor is not able to tell you exactly what the costs will be, you must be told the basis for calculating the costs (for example, $350 per hour) and be given a single dollar estimate of the total costs.
Estimates are not firm quotes. Your solicitor will tell you as soon as practicable after becoming aware of any likely significant increase in any estimate previously given to you.
What if I have not received disclosure?
If your solicitor has failed to provide you with this disclosure in accordance with the legislation, you need not pay the costs until the bill has been assessed by a Costs Assessor. Your solicitor would then have to make an application for assessment and also pay for the costs of the assessment. See: Your right to challenge legal costs.