A bill of costs sets out the details of professional fees and disbursements charged by lawyers.
A bill of costs is a detailed itemisation of fees charged by lawyers for work performed and disbursements incurred associated with the work.
When seeking legal advice, it is important that you are aware of the costs involved and how much you can be expected to pay throughout the process. However, if you receive a bill of costs and believe it is unreasonably high, the Blue Ribbon Legal team can help you.
What is a bill of costs?
A bill of costs typically includes the solicitor’s professional fees as well as barrister’s fees and disbursements.
Professional fees reflect the solicitor’s time and expertise either in the form of a fixed amount or an hourly rate. This includes work such as phone calls, emails, drafting and reviewing documents and conferences etc. The basis for calculating professional fees should be clearly set out in a costs agreement between solicitor and client.
Disbursements can include internal charges like photocopying and faxes, or external charges such as court filing fees, barrister’s fees and medical reports.
In cases where costs need to be assessed or taxed in court, the party seeking to recover costs is generally required to prepare a detailed bill of costs.
How does a client dispute a bill of costs?
In New South Wales and Victoria if you are given a lump sum bill by your solicitor, you can request an itemised bill within 30 days. Other time limits may apply in other states and territories.
If you think the amount of costs charged is not fair and reasonable, it is important to know that there is a time limit for making an application for assessment. For this reason, it is important to seek professional help to make sure that objections to a bill of costs or tax invoice are valid, concise and made within time.
Professionals in legal costing and cost assessments can identify whether there is a reasonable basis to challenge legal costs charged, and to identify costs which are not fair and reasonable. Legal costing experts can also prepare detailed objections to ensure clients do not pay unreasonably high legal costs.
How is a bill of costs assessed?
The costs assessment process varies between states and territories. In New South Wales, the process involves filing of an application for assessment with the Supreme Court. In Victoria, the process involves filing a Summons with the Costs Court. An application for assessment can be made if the costs have been paid or are unpaid
During costs assessment, an independent costs assessor will look at the bill and determine whether or not any unreasonable costs have been charged. In New South Wales, costs assessors are experienced practising solicitors and barristers appointed by the Chief Justice. In Victoria the Costs Court comprises Associate Judges, a Judicial Registrar and two Costs Registrars.
A similar process applies for assessment of costs payable by one party to another following court orders, although time limits will vary.
How can Blue Ribbon Legal assist you?
At Blue Ribbon Legal, we are able to help both lawyers and clients with disputes over legal costs, in cases where the dispute is between the lawyer and the client as well as disputes between opposing parties in court proceedings.
If you have received a bill of costs and would like to dispute the legal costs charged, we are available to provide advice and guidance regarding your options. We prepare and review itemised bills of costs, objections and detailed submissions. So please get in touch with the experts in legal costing.