This document (amongst other things) summarises:
(a) your relationship with me, including my retainer agreement;
(b) my initial statutory disclosures to you, and
(c) to set out how you will be charged, and
(d) to provide useful tips on how to save you money on legal costs.
This document forms part of my retainer agreement with you.
It is critical that you read this document and understand everything in it before you sign my retainer agreement.
WHAT TYPE OF CLIENT ARE YOU
Legislation categorises solicitors’ clients into clients and those clients who are called sophisticated clients.
This document accompanies a client questionnaire.
When you complete the client questionnaire there will be a list of questions, the answers to which helped me categorise you and to ascertain if you are a sophisticated client or not.
Sophisticated clients get less statutory rights than other clients especially with respect to statutory disclosures under the Act.
I make the following disclosures to all clients, even sophisticated clients.
You have the right to:
(a) negotiate a costs agreement with me;
(b) receive a bill from me;
(c) request an itemised bill after receipt of a lump sum bill;
(d) be notified of any substantial change to the matters disclosed to you;
(e) an estimate of the total legal costs if reasonably practicable or, if that is not reasonably practicable, a range of estimates of the total legal costs and an explanation of the major variables that will affect the calculation of those costs -see below;
(f) the rate of interest that I will charge you on overdue legal costs – see below;
(g) if the matter is a litigious matter, an estimate of:
(i) the range of costs that may be recovered if you are successful in the litigation; and
(ii) the range of costs you may be ordered to pay if you are unsuccessful;
(h) progress reports – see below;
(i) details of the person whom you may contact to discuss the legal costs – Mr Attila Meister; and
(j) the avenues open to you in the event of a dispute in relation to legal costs – see below.
(a) Legal costs are dependent on the nature of the work you instruct a solicitor to do;
(b) Courts and Tribunals have their own scale of costs set by legislation. Some of these scales of costs are based on a time or task basis;
(c) Examples are:
(i) the Magistrates Court has its own scales;
(ii) the District Court of South Australia has its own scales;
(iii) the Supreme Court of South Australia has its own scales;
(iv) the Federal Court of Australia has its own scales.
All of these scales are searchable on the internet.
(d) For general commercial work the Supreme Court of South Australia scale of costs applies.
My scale of costs
I must disclose to you the basis on which legal costs will be calculated.
I have my own scale of costs (My Scale of Costs).
My scale of costs is based on the Supreme Court of South Australia Scale with variations.
A copy of My Scale of Costs is on this site or available upon request.
A copy of the Supreme Court of South Australia Scale of Costs can be searched on the internet especially at the Law Society of South Australia web page.
Please compare My Scale of Costs with the current applicable scale and the Supreme Court of South Australia Scale of Costs.
Under my retainer agreement you agree that I will charge you in accordance with My Scale of Costs.
My Scale of Costs:
(a) is based on a task or time basis, for the provision of my legal services to you; and
(b) may result in a higher charge than if the applicable scale of costs is used.
I must disclose to you if I will not be calculating legal costs in accordance with an applicable scale of costs—that another law practice may calculate legal costs in accordance with the scale
There may be other solicitors who are prepared to act for you and charge you the applicable scale of costs or less or even more.
I charge a premium on my hourly rates where urgent work is required outside of my normal office hours [9.00am to 5.15pm Monday to Friday excluding Public Holidays] at your express request.
Unless some other amount is agreed between you and me in advance, this premium is set at an extra 50% of the hourly rate for the lawyer performing the Services.
Hourly rate fees charged for the Services are the product of the hours worked (divided into minimum units of 6 minutes or part thereof) multiplied by the hourly rate of the person who did the work.
The use of minimum units means that even if a particular task takes only say one (1) minute, it will be recorded and charged as a full six-minute time unit.
Hourly rate fees vary depending on the level of experience and expertise of the person doing the work.
My rates are fixed until the end of the current financial year.
I review My Scale of Costs annually, and if upon such review they are varied, I will give you written notice of any intended variation to My Scale of Costs for the next financial year. You are not obliged to accept those proposed varied rates (“the new rates”) and if you do not accept the new rates, then I am entitled to cease acting for you, or you can terminate my Services. However if you do accept the new rates you can confirm your acceptance of the new rates to me expressly either orally or in writing or by your conduct such as paying a bill of costs expressly calculated upon the new rates.
DISBURSEMENTS & OTHER CHARGES
In addition to charging you for legal costs, I will charge you for all:
(a) out of pockets (Disbursements) incurred or paid for on your behalf; and
(b) Administrative Service Charges.
I use a third party legal office accounting and document management software package called FilePro and they charge me a set fee per file opened, which fee will be charged to you as a disbursement for payment by you upon the opening of your file.
If your matter is not presently litigious, but subsequently becomes litigious; the Disbursements payable by you may include: –
(a) Court fees including filing fees, service fees, Trial fees;
(b) Your barrister’s fees;
(c) Your barrister may require a copy of the Transcript, and if so it will be ordered at your cost, and is to be paid for by you;
(d) If you require a translator, then that service will be ordered at your cost, and is to be paid for by you;
(e) If you require expert witnesses, then their services will be engaged at your cost, and is to be paid for by you.
If I need to incur a Disbursement:
(a) in excess of $200.00; or
(b) which is unusual as to its nature or extent (including in litigious matters expenses which are unlikely to be recoverable from the other side if you win and obtain a costs order),
I will ask you first, before incurring such a Disbursement.
All Disbursements are incurred on your behalf and as your agent.
My charges for Administrative Service Charges are set out in my Scale of Costs and are likely to exceed those provided for under the applicable Court or Tribunal scale. These charges are subject to GST.
Administrative Service Charges include charges for facsimile transmissions, photocopying, scanning and printing, and are based on the number of pages sent or copied.
My legal costs are subject to GST and you are liable to pay those legal costs plus GST.
If any Disbursements or Administrative Service Charges incurred or paid for by me on your behalf are subject to GST, then you are liable to pay that GST or reimburse me for any GST that I have paid on your behalf in respect of those Disbursements or Administrative Service Charges.
I may require you to deposit into My trust account moneys on account of payment of your bill of costs, Disbursements, Administrative Service Charges, GST and barrister’s fees. If you fail to do so I may terminate my retainer agreement.
BILL OF COSTS
I am entitled to render a bill of costs to you on an interim basis, provided that no bill of costs is to be delivered less than twenty-one (21) days after the delivery of a prior bill.
A bill of costs must be paid within fourteen (14) days after delivery.
Interest at the Agreed Rate begins to run and accrue on an unpaid bill of costs if unpaid for thirty (30) days after delivery.
If a bill of costs remains unpaid after fourteen (14) days after delivery I may terminate my retainer and in so doing cease to act for you.
The following avenues are available to you if you are not happy with a bill of costs from me:-
(a) requesting an itemised bill of costs;
(b) discussing your concerns with me;
(c) having my costs adjudicated;
(d) applying to set aside our cost agreement;
(e) making a complaint to the Legal Profession Conduct Commissioner (if you believe there has been overcharging).
For more information about your rights, please read the fact sheet titled Your Right to Challenge Legal Costs, a copy of which accompanies this document.
Any reasonable legal costs (including my time) Disbursements, Administrative Services Charges and GST incurred in successfully recovering any outstanding amount (charged at the current Supreme Court Scale) will be charged to you.
If you pay your bill of costs by credit card, I will pass on to you and charge your account with that surcharge charged to me for providing to you the facility of you being able to pay your bill of costs by your credit card. This surcharge varies between credit card providers.
If you require a barrister to assist or advise you, then I will advise you so accordingly.
I will give you a choice of a barrister, or if you already have someone in mind; let me know.
Barristers like solicitors have different charge rates and it is likely that you will choose a barrister that you can afford.
Before I engage a barrister I will consult with you, obtain an estimate from that barrister and obtain your consent to engage that barrister.
The barrister’s estimate will then be required to be paid into my trust account before the barrister is formally engaged so that the barrister can be paid promptly out of those trust monies upon the rendering of their bill of costs.
Your barrister may require me to enter into a retainer agreement with him or her and if I do You agree to pay their bill of costs promptly upon the same being rendered. If I pay your barrister their bill of costs you will promptly reimburse me.
ESTIMATE OF COSTS
I will provide you with a reasonable estimated range of my anticipated legal costs, Administrative Service Charges and Disbursements before commencing any Services for you (usually at the first appointment); and thereafter:-
(a) if there is a substantial change in an estimate of costs; and
(b) as and when reasonably requested by you.
I will provide to you an estimate of the total legal costs if reasonably practicable or, if that is not reasonably practicable, a range of estimates of the total legal costs and an explanation of the major variables that will affect the calculation of those costs.
If you engage me on an ad hoc basis it is very difficult for me to estimate your total legal costs as that is dependent solely on how much and how frequently you use my services. However, if you use My Scale of Costs that will give you an indication of what you will be charged. For instance, if You want a one-hour conference that would be $450 plus GST.
You will be billed once monthly.
I will render your bill of costs to the billing address you provide me.
Avoid Post Office Boxes, RMB or other road side designated post addresses for your billing address. Your actual residential or business address is preferred.
If you want your bill of costs emailed to you, then you must provide to me your current email address for that purpose.
If you pay your bill of costs late, then interest at the Agreed Rate begins to run and accrue your unpaid bill of costs, but only if your bill of costs is unpaid for thirty (30) days after delivery.
Agreed Interest Rate is the rate prescribed from time to time by the Regulations, which as at the date of this Contract, is equal to the Cash Rate Target as at the Relevant Date, increased by two (2) percentage points.
If your matter is a litigious matter, I will provide an estimate of:
(a) the range of costs that may be recovered if you are successful in the litigation; and
(b) the range of costs you may be ordered to pay if you are unsuccessful.
You may ask me for a report as to:
(a) the progress of your matter; or
(b) the legal costs incurred to date or since your last bill of costs.
I will charge you for reports on the progress of your matter.
An estimate of my legal costs is not a quote or an agreement to carry out my Scope of Works for a fixed fee.
NOTE: That the estimate is just that, a preliminary estimate.
The actual legal costs, administrative service charges, disbursements and GST will be based on the work actually done and the expenses actually incurred.
I will promptly inform you of any substantial variation to any estimate of legal costs and disbursements.
You may ask me at any time for an update of an estimate of legal costs and disbursements.
The actual legal costs and disbursements payable by you may differ from the estimate depending upon the circumstances and the amount of work actually undertaken. Some of the major variables that affect any estimate of costs include:-
(a) the complexity, novelty or difficulty of your matter i.e. if your matter is relatively simple and straightforward to do or difficult or complex;
(b) If you require a bespoke document drafted;
(c) The period within which the legal services are to be provided;
(d) The nature of my Scope of Works i.e. what legal services you instruct me to do for you;
(e) What is required to be done for you by others such as your barrister and other experts, consultants and advisors and their availability and their rates of charges;
(f) The number of, and size of, and complexity of the documents that I, your barrister and others advising you need to read, understand and be in a position to advise you on;
(g) If a dispute exists;
(i) Your attitude and conduct;
(ii) The other party’s attitude (if there is another party) and conduct;
(iii) The rates charged by your barrister and the extent to which your barrister’s involvement is required;
(iv) The availability of your chosen barrister and that barrister’s response time;
(v) The progress of negotiations and costs of mediations;
(vi) Your response time to enquiries; and
(vii) If your matter is or becomes litigious.
The pace at which your matter progresses is only partially controlled by you as there may be things outside of my and your control which affect the progress of your matter. However if there is no other party involved in your matter then you will have the full control of the conduct of your matter.
No guarantee of success regarding any commercial or litigious dispute can be given to you.
You can minimise legal costs by doing as much for yourself in relation to your matter as reasonably possible.
Some suggestions for minimising your legal costs are:
(a) Attempt to resolve disputes by negotiation. If a mutual agreement is reached, the solicitors should be engaged to arrange for that agreement to be recorded in writing;
(b) At all times remain reasonable, commercial and carefully consider advice received from all of your professional advisors;
(c) If you have an administrative, non-legal enquiry deal with a legal secretary. A telephone attendance upon a legal secretary costs less than a telephone attendance upon a solicitor.
(d) Your solicitor is always happy to discuss with you any of your concerns either in person or by telephone, but note that you will be charged for all attendances on a time basis and accordingly you should be time and cost conscious when dealing with solicitors.
(e) Do as much as is reasonably possible for yourself in relation to your matter i.e. carefully consider your matter so that you can provide succinct, clear and detailed instructions.
(f) Before contacting your solicitor make a list of everything you want to ask of them so that you do not forget to ask something; requiring you to ring them again and incur a further charge.
(g) Consider your matter carefully and commercially. “Principle fights” are expensive so be rational.
(h) Avoid constantly changing your mind and changing your instructions to me – be consistent and rational.
(i) Promptly reply to all communications. Follow-up correspondence and reminder notices are charged for.
(j) If your matter is litigious – comply with orders of the Court in a prompt and timely manner abiding by time limits set by the Court. If you fail to do so an adverse costs order may be made against you.
(k) When providing original documents to me also provide a copy as every page photocopied or scanned is charged for by me.
(l) Avoid being over anxious. Continually ringing me many times a day asking for an update or if the other side have responded, incurs unnecessary legal costs;
(m) Try using alternatives to Court. Every reasonable attempt possible ought to be made to resolve a dispute amicably instead of going to Court.
Court proceedings are: –
(a) costly both financially and emotionally;
(b) time consuming in that it takes a lot of work and effort to prepare for and conduct the Trial; and
(c) very risky; you may lose or even win and the unsuccessful party becomes insolvent and you get nothing.
Irrespective of what Court you are in, legal costs can range from $20,000 to $200,000 or even more.
CONSIDER ALTERNATIVES TO COURT
I encourage you to consider alternatives to Court such as: –
(d) counselling, and
(e) other alternative dispute resolution procedures.
Electronic communications (including emails and SMS) may:-
(a) Not be secure and may be intercepted by third parties;
(b) Contain unauthorised software or script that could damage an electronic device (including a computer or a computer network or telephone or other mobile device);
(c) Contain such things as viruses, Trojans, worms, root kits, bots, sniffers, key loggers, malware, adware, ransom ware, crypto lockers, diallers, phishing, pups or other unwanted or malicious attachments; and
(d) Be delayed or lost in transmission.
So it is critical that you take reasonable precautions to avoid the above by using up to date virus scanning software.
Subject to any law to the contrary; I am entitled to destroy your file, at any time after the expiration of seven (7) years after the completion of your matter or the termination of my appointment as your lawyer (whichever is the first to occur).
Once you matter is complete it is recommended that you collect from me all of your original and other documents before I destroy them.
Subject to the above; I will archive your file when your matter is complete. If you request documents from your file after it has been archived you must prepay the cost of retrieving your file from archives as well as allowing me to make a copy of what you request.
My file is and will always remain my file. I own the copyright in documents and other works I create for you, subject to you having a licence to use those works for the express purpose for which was created.
PRIVACY ACT 1988
I collect, record and may use personal and sensitive information about you.
The disclosure of your personal and sensitive information may be compelled by law. You authorise me to disclose such information where necessary in conducting your matter.
Subject to any contrary court orders, upon termination of my retainer, I am entitled to (and will enforce) a lien on your file for any outstanding legal costs, Administrative Service Charges, Disbursements, GST and any unpaid interest.
Subject to my lien, I will if so requested by you, return to you any papers to which you are entitled, but I am entitled at my own expense to make a copy of what you request.