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Costs disclosure

Costs disclosure

Your lawyer has obligations to make disclosures about legal costs and other rights to you.

Your lawyer must advise you of the expected legal costs for your matter as soon as is practicable. Costs disclosure gives you information about the basis on which legal costs will be calculated and provides an estimate, or range of estimates, of total legal costs (if reasonably practicable). There are two types of costs disclosure – abbreviated disclosure and detailed disclosure.

Abbreviated costs disclosure

Abbreviated costs disclosure can be made orally or in writing. If made orally, your lawyer must confirm it in writing as soon as practicable after the disclosure is made. Abbreviated costs disclosure can be made in a separate document or included in a costs agreement. 

As part of an abbreviated costs disclosure your lawyer must disclose to you:  

  • in general terms, the legal services that will be provided,  
  • the basis on which legal costs will be calculated, including whether a scale of costs applies,  
  • an estimate of total legal costs,  
  • an estimate of the total amount of disbursements,  
  • your right to: to negotiate a costs agreement,  receive a bill from the law practice, request an itemised bill and be notified of any substantial changes to disclosed matters  

Your lawyer must also detail the costs for any other law practice they intend to engage on your behalf (such as barristers). 

Detailed costs disclosure

Detailed costs disclosures must be in writing and may be made by a separate document or can be included in a costs agreement.  

Detailed costs disclosure obligations include:  

  • an explanation of how costs are calculated  
  • a estimate of total costs or a range of estimates for the total costs and what variables can impact this  
  • your rights in relation to legal costs  
  • the intervals at which you’ll be billed.  

Your lawyer must also notify you of certain rights, as outlined below (see ‘Your rights’) 

Your lawyer must also detail the costs for any other law practice they intend to engage on your behalf (such as barristers). They must provide contact details for you to discuss costs and disclose any interest rate they’ll charge for overdue amounts.  

Your lawyer must also tell you about any uplift fees that may be charged, what rate they are charged at and when this may occur. 

For cases that may go to court or a tribunal, your lawyer must also tell you an estimated range of costs you could recover if your matter is successful, and what you could be ordered to for the other sides legal costs if you’re unsuccessful. 

Costs disclosure must occur as soon as practicable after you have retained the law practice.  

Costs disclosure doesn’t just happen at the beginning of your matter. Your lawyer has an ongoing costs disclosure obligation throughout the matter and must keep you updated if costs change.  

If a lawyer fails to disclose any of the costs disclosure obligations, you are not obligated to pay the costs until a costs assessment is conducted and the law practice can’t commence proceedings to recover costs. 

Your rights

A detailed costs disclosure must notify you of your right to:

  • negotiate the costs agreement
  • receive a bill
  • request an itemised bill
  • be notified of anything that may cause a substantial change in a costs or fee
  • receive progress reports
  • apply for a costs assessment (and the time limits that apply if you dispute the bill)
  • apply to the Supreme Court or the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal to set aside the costs agreement if it’s not fair and reasonable (and any time limits that apply).

When costs disclosures are required

Costs disclosures are only required when legal costs are likely to exceed $1500 (excluding GST and disbursements).  

Costs disclosure is not required if the matter is unlikely to exceed this amount.  

However, if your lawyer later becomes aware that the legal costs are likely to exceed $1500 (excluding GST and disbursements), they must then provide you with costs disclosure. This can be either an abbreviated costs disclosure or detailed costs disclosure.  

If your lawyer becomes aware that the legal costs are likely to exceed $3000 (excluding GST and disbursements) they must provide you with detailed costs disclosure. This applies even if they have previously provided you with abbreviated costs disclosure. 

The costs disclosure must be provided to you before, or as soon as is practicable after, you retain your lawyer.