Legal Costs

We understand that legal services must be provided in a cost effective way.

Quality legal advice adds value to the transaction, but we realise that business and commercial transactions have a budget. Generally, we provide an estimate of the total legal costs and discuss a fixed price for your legal matter. However, in some instances it is not possible to predict the total cost and the estimate we provide will refer to a range for the legal costs. This article explains some of the main reasons why legal costs vary and can help you to avoid traps that add to the legal costs:

All legal matters

  • Broad instructions can increase the cost because it may then be necessary to cover more contingencies.
  • The more complex the legal matter, the more time it will take to resolve it.
  • Emergence of unusual or unforeseen issues.
  • Need for expert reports. Sometimes it is necessary to engage an expert such as an accountant, medical practitioner or valuer. The number of experts and their charges will increase the legal costs.
  • If you materially change the nature or extent of your instructions during the course of your legal matter this can increase the legal work needed.

Commercial transactions

  • A standard transaction takes less time than a non-standard transaction which will often require unique documents and solutions.
  • The more documentation there is, the more time it will take to complete the transaction.
  • Protracted or difficult negotiations can, and often do, significantly increase the legal cost.
  • Demands by other parties to the transaction can protract and complicate the steps that are needed to complete the transaction.
  • Approvals or consents by third parties, such as a bank or council, require additional steps to be taken.

Litigation

  • Generally, the more parties there are, the more time is needed to ready the dispute for trial.
  • Number and nature of the issues in the dispute. Several issues in a single dispute are common but increase time needed to resolve the dispute.
  • Extent to which the parties engage in interlocutory disputation (such as challenging aspects of the claim or defence). The more the parties dispute aspects of the claim or defence, the more time and work it will take to ready the dispute for trial.
  • Delays and demands from other parties to the litigation. These things will protract and complicate the dispute.
  • The nature and number of steps needed to investigate the claim or defence and gather the evidence can, and often does, significantly increase the legal costs.
  • The more witnesses there are the more time will be needed to ready the dispute for trial.
  • Need to engage and instruct a barrister to represent you in court. Providing detailed instructions to the barrister (in the form of a brief) and his or her fees are often the largest component of the legal costs in a court dispute.
  • The cost for the legal representatives (solicitor and barrister) to attend the trial is a product of the actual number of days spent in court. The longer the trial, the more it will cost.
  • If the dispute does proceed to trial, whether there is an appeal from the trial. An appeal will significantly increase the time and work needed to finalise the dispute.
  • Way in which settlement offers and negotiations are conducted. Difficult or protracted negotiations in litigious disputes are common and can significantly increase the time needed to resolve the dispute.

Legal Opinions

  • Number of issues about which a legal opinion is sought. Several issues are common and can significantly increase the reading time (case law and legislation).
  • Whether the law is certain. If the law is uncertain the a proper legal opinion will take more research and time to write.
  • Number and length of documents to be read. The more documents there are, the more reading time will be needed.
  • Extent to which detailed explanation is required. If the issues require detailed explanation on matters of fact or law, then this will increase the time needed to prepare the opinion.

Your right to know!

You have the right to:

  • Negotiate a costs agreement with us.
  • Request an itemised bill of costs after you receive a
    lump sum bill from us.
  • Request written reports about the progress of your
    matter and the costs incurred in your matter.
  • Apply for costs to be adjudicated within 6 months if
    you are unhappy with our costs.
  • Apply for the costs agreement to be set aside.
  • Make a complaint to the Legal Profession Conduct Commissioner (if you believe there has been
    overcharging).
  • Accept or reject any offer we make for an interstate
    costs law to apply to your matter.
  • Notify us that you require an interstate costs law
    to apply to your matter.

For more information about your rights, please read the fact sheet titled Legal Costs - your right to know. You can ask us for a copy, or obtain it from the Law Society of South Australia (or download it from their website).

We charge legal costs on a time cost basis, but could use Supreme Court Scale. The legal costs that we charge are not limited to the Supreme Court Scale and may, in some cases will, be higher than if the Scale was used. Charging on a time cost basis is common place, but there may be other legal practitioners who calculate legal costs in accordance with the Supreme Court Scale.