What is a Tripartite Deed and when should I use one?

A Tripartite Deed is an enforceable agreement, predominately, between a former solicitor, a client and the new solicitor for any outstanding legal fees owed to the former solicitor. An impasse may occur where the former practitioner claims a lien on the client’s file for unpaid costs, while the new practitioner needs the file to continue proceedings or other work.

Rules 14 and 15 of the Legal Profession Uniform Law Australian Solicitors’ Conduct Rules 2015 provide for how, in the event of a termination of the retainer, a client's file is to be handed over to the new practitioner. The Law Society precedent Tripartite Deed is frequently used by practitioners to provide satisfactory security for the former practitioner's costs.

Practitioners should adapt the Deed to suit their own purposes as the Law Society does not warrant the effectiveness of the Deed in any particular matter.

  • Tripartite Deed (Uniform Law) – This deed applies where the former practitioner’s and the new practitioner’s legal costs are both uniform law costs.
  • Tripartite Deed (LPA – Uniform Law) – This deed applies where the former practitioner’s legal costs are LPA costs and the new practitioner’s legal costs are uniform law costs.

Reasonable security

As to whether the Deed provides satisfactory security for the previous practitioner’s costs, one should consider Pembroke J’s judgment in Tyneside Property Management Pty Limited & Ors v Hammersmith Management Pty  Limited & Ors [2011] NSWSC 22:

“satisfactory security will mean something of monetary value which will ensure the satisfaction of the possessory lien: Bechara v Atie (supra) at [64].”