Terms of Engagement
The specific terms upon which we act for you will be discussed and agreed upon with you at our initial meeting. We will then provide you with written confirmation of the agreement we have reached so that there is certainty with regard to the services we will render to you. Listed below are various subjects that will be covered in the written “Client Services Agreement.” While it might seem lengthy and a bit pedantic, this is for your protection, because if you haven’t agreed all of these things with your solicitors, how can you really know where you stand in your dealings with them?
1. Scope of the Legal Work
It is vital to reach a clear understanding as to precisely what it is you require from your solicitor. While there can never be any guarantee as to the outcome of your case, it is important to set out the result that you are seeking. By including this in our written agreement we remove the potential for misunderstanding and ensure that our efforts are directed toward achieving that result.
Before engaging a solicitor you must have a clear understanding of how you will be charged.
Many law firms will charge on a ‘time’ basis for all the work they do, so you are billed for the time taken to write letters, read and draft documents etc regardless of how long it takes them. At Websters Lawyers use an ‘item’ based structure so that for those types of things you pay for the end product regardless of how long it takes us. For that reason our fees are based upon a percentage of the Schedule of Fees contained in the Supreme Court Rules. The specific rate will depend upon the nature of the matter and whether our agreement is to render interim invoices, to defer rendering an invoice until the conclusion of the case, or whether payment of your fees is dependent upon the outcome (such as in a ‘no win, no fee’ arrangement).
The following link is to a copy of the most recent Schedule and any amendments made by the Supreme Court will be forwarded to you during the course of your case.
Supreme Court Scale of Fees
The specific exceptions to the rates under the Scale are:
- All attendances by lawyers for whatever purpose or of whatever nature are charged at the unit rate based on item 7 (ie by a lawyer involving skill);
- Attendances in any Court, Tribunal or other such forum will include travel and waiting time and incur a minimum fee of 8 units;
- After hours attendances (those outside 9.00 am and 5.00 pm Monday to Friday other than public holidays) attract a surcharge of 25% above the agreed rate.
- All perusals are charged at the maximum rate per quarter page;
- Photocopying, printing and electronic scanning of documents is charged at twice the rate under item 6 of the Scale regardless of the number of pages and includes original and file copies of documents.
This amount includes the cost of collating and filing such documents;
- To ensure efficiency a file note will be made of all events as a permanent written record which will be costed at half the rate under item 2 of the Scale.
Also, in order to provide you with a cost effective service, in some matters we may engage an experienced Specialist Law Clerk to assist in the day to day conduct of the matter. A Specialist Law Clerk is not a legal practitioner but is a senior clerk with particular experience and training in assisting with legal matters who works under the supervision of the lawyer responsible and their attendances are charged at 80% of the Solicitor’s rate pursuant to this agreement.
Disbursements are expenses incurred on your behalf, which are charged in addition to the fees for our firm’s time, and under our Client Services Agreement you authorise us to incur such disbursements as we deem appropriate. This is despite the fact that such disbursements might not be recoverable, wholly or in part, even if you are successful in the matter. These types of expenses would include Court fees, expert’s fees, courier fees, barrister’s fees, agents’ fees, photocopying, facsimiles, postage & stationery costs, STD and mobile telephone calls.
Where we request that you do so, funds to meet such expenses must be in our trust account prior to our obtaining these services, as we are liable for payment once we obtain them on your behalf. However, whilst our firm is the requestor of such services, such requests are made on your behalf and payment thereof is ultimately your responsibility.
For injury cases (such as car accident injury claims, public liability claims etc) as part of the Client Services Agreement we may agree to pay for disbursements on the basis that you will not be liable to repay that amount unless and until we recover the cost from another party or from any settlement payment you receive. In such cases it will be necessary for you to sign a separate agreement in relation to the fee that will be charged for that service and your solicitor will discuss this with you if the need arises.
4. Estimate of Our Fees and Expenses
While we will do our best to provide you with a realistic estimate of what it will cost to handle your case, in most instances it is difficult to do so as the amount of work required will be affected by factors outside of our control, such as the need to wait until an injured client’s condition has stabilised, or the conduct of the other side to a dispute or claim. For that reason, the estimate we will provide you can only be a guide and as the case proceeds and it becomes clearer how much work is likely to be needed, we will review our estimate. You may at any time request details of your fees to date.
In the event that your case goes to Court and you are successful, you may be entitled to recover a percentage of your costs from the other party or parties. The scale of fees that applies in the Court in which your action is heard will also determine what can be recovered from the other party. It is only in the most exceptional circumstances that a Court will order the unsuccessful party to pay all of the costs that we have charged you. If you are unsuccessful in a Court action, you may be liable to pay the costs and disbursements of the other party along with our fees (subject to the terms upon which we are acting). Of course, these are all matters that you can discuss with an experienced solicitor at your initial interview.
5. Trust Money
In certain circumstances we will ask a client for money in advance on account of fees for work yet to be undertaken and/or on account of disbursements yet to be incurred. Such funds are deposited into our trust account and are recorded as a credit balance against your name. Whether this will be necessary is something that will be agreed upon with you at the commencement of your case.
6. Storage of Records
At the conclusion of your matter you authorise us to maintain an electronic (scanned) copy only of your file and all hard copies of documents will be destroyed after the expiration of any applicable statutory appeal periods. If a hard copy of the file is to be held in storage this will incur an annual fee based on one unit of the attendance rate of a non-lawyer under the Scale and an access fee of four such units to retrieve the file from storage if required.