Life can be unpredictable and occasionally you will be presented with a legal challenge that you weren't expecting. You have to calculate how you're going to deal with this and will likely have to bring in the services of a good solicitor. If you've never been in this position before, you may be confused about what it's likely to cost you. How are charges handled in the Australian legal system and what do you need to know?
The first thing you need to realise, is that lawyers in Australia need to provide you with information about the way they invoice before any work can start. They have to tell you how they calculate the various charges and give you an estimate of the likely totals. Typically, your legal team will calculate charges in one of three ways. They can quote you a lump sum for all of the work or a fixed rate, they can itemise for specific jobs, or they will quote you a daily or hourly rate. This calculation does need to include any time spent in meetings on your behalf, attending court or making phone calls, for example.
It's usual in this profession for your legal representative to ask for some of the money to be made in advance, as a way of covering anticipated costs. This money is typically placed into a trust account, pending completion of the work and the calculation of the final cost. If your case is quite complicated and likely to go on for quite a long time, then a solicitor may ask you to make periodic payments "on account" to release funds. You need to agree all of these details at the start.
It may also be necessary for the solicitor to bring in other experts to help on your particular case. Once again, these costs need to be agreed in advance.
Other Party Court Costs
You do need to be aware of "other party" costs, which may in certain circumstances be charged to you by the court. These are completely separate to the costs that your own solicitor incurs should the case go to court. It could be that you will not be successful and the judge may order that you have to pay specific costs incurred by the other party. These will relate to the cost of court proceedings, though and not the actual lawyer costs incurred by the other party.
Itemisation and Settlement
As your case progresses, you will be able to get progress reports from a solicitor and you are always eligible to get thoroughly itemised bills as well. Have a word with them about the billing arrangements available to you, so that you can work out how to pay the invoice.