A guide to representing yourself when you request a review of your solicitor's bill  in the Costs Court

If you are unhappy with your solicitor ’s bill, you should first discuss the matter with your solicitor. If you are unable to resolve the issues you can:

  • ask the Legal Services Commissioner to review the bill, or
  • start a proceeding in the Supreme Court to request a review of your solicitor’s bill in the Costs Court.

Time limits and restrictions apply. 

Guide - Request a review of your solicitor's bill

View the guide below, or download a printable version at the bottom of the page.

The information in the guide is for people representing themselves throughout the court process. It includes what to do at each stage, what forms you need to complete, what documents you need to provide, court fees and costs that apply and what it means to represent yourself in the Supreme Court of Victoria.

Costs Court reviews are managed in accordance with the:

What the Costs Court can order

The Costs Court may order the solicitor to reduce the bill if it decides the costs :

  • were not reasonably incurred, or
  • are not reasonable and proportionate to how complex or important the legal issue was that led to the bill.

The process of the Costs Court review is called taxation.

Be aware: your lawyer may start a proceeding in the Costs Court, or sue you in another court, if you do not pay your bill on time. Seek legal advice if you are not sure about paying your bill.

Reviews by the Legal Services Commissioner

If you first instructed your solicitor on or after 1 July 2015, you can ask the Legal Services Commissioner to review your bill if the:

  • total bill is less than $100,000, or
  • the bill is more than $100,000 but the amount in dispute is less than $10,000.

If you first instructed your solicitor between 12 December 2005 and 30 June 2015, you can ask the Legal Services Commissioner to review your bill if the total bill is less than $25,000.

Strict time limits apply. Contact the Office of the Legal Services Commissioner for details.

Reviews by the Costs Court

If you first instructed your solicitor on or after 1 July 2015, you can apply to have the Costs Court review your bill if:

  • you are out of time to apply to the Legal Services Commissioner, or
  • your total bill is $100,000 or more.

You can apply to the Cost Court for a review even if the amount in dispute is less than $100,000. Part 4.3 of the Legal Profession Uniform Law Application Act 2014 applies in this situation.

If you first instructed your solicitor between 12 December 2005 and 30 June 2015, you can apply to have the Costs Court review your bill if you:

  • are out of time to apply to the Legal Services Commissioner, or
  • your total bill is $25,000 or more (making you ineligible to apply to the Legal Services Commissioner for a review), or
  • your total bill is less than $25,000 and you prefer the Costs Court to review your bill.

Time limits

You have 12 months from the date you received your final solicitor’s bill to apply for a Costs Court review (if you first instructed your solicitor after 12 December 2005). 

If more than 12 months have passed, you can make an application to the Court to extend the time.

Attach to your extension of time application an affidavit outlining why you are applying late and why it is just and fair to extend the time limit.

Understand what the Costs Court can order

After conducting a review, if the Costs Court reduces your solicitor ’s bill by 15 per cent or more, then it may order the solicitor to pay your costs

If your bill is not reduced by this amount, the Costs Court may order you to pay your solicitor’s costs.

Be aware – these costs can be substantial. 

Get help from organisations that provide legal information and free or low-cost legal services.   

Consider paying for some legal advice even if it is only to help you with a particular part of the process.

Decide if you need legal help

The law in relation to cost matters is complex and technical. It is recommended you seek legal advice from another lawyer or a cost consultant. The Law Institute of Victoria has a free referral service to help you find one. 

Get to know Court procedures

Read the following documents carefully. They provide important information and guidance:

Do your legal research 

Make sure you understand the law that applies to your case by doing some legal research. Read about cases similar to yours and note any cases where the law you are relying on has been applied in a way that you think proves your arguments. 

Create a RedCrest account for filing documents 

You file documents with the Court using the online system RedCrest

The RedCrest Electronic Filing User Guide has information and instructions. 

Get to know legal terms 

Check the glossary for common legal words and terms.

Stage 1: File a Summons for Taxation form

To start the process:

  • Complete a Summons for Taxation form
  • File the form in RedCrest
  • File a copy of the solicitor ’s bill(s) – either lump sum (total bill) or itemised bill
  • Wait for a RedCrest notification that the form has been accepted. It has a date for the first hearing , called a callover.
  • Download and print the form, ready for service in Stage 2.

Ask your solicitor for an itemised bill

You need an itemised bill for the review process. It shows what you were charged for each item or task the solicitor did. Sometimes, the bills a solicitor sends you may have enough details to conduct the review.

Do not delay filing your Summons for Taxation form if you do not have an itemised bill yet.

You have 30 days, from the date the most recent bill was due for payment, to request an itemised bill. The solicitor must provide one within 21 days of your request.

If more than 30 days have passed, at the callover the Court can order the solicitor to give you an itemised bill.

Stage 1 checklist 

  • Complete a Summons for Taxation form
  • File a copy of the form  
  • File a copy of the solicitor’s bill  
  • Wait for a RedCrest notification that the form has been accepted 
  • Download and print a copy, ready for service in Stage 2.

 

Stage 2: Serve your documents on the solicitor

Who to serve

You serve the solicitor whose bill is being reviewed.

What documents to serve

Serve the:

  • Summons for Taxation form with the Court’s seal on it
  • copy of the solicitor’s bill(s).

When to serve documents

Serve as soon as you are notified in RedCrest that the sealed copy of the Summons for Taxation form is available.

Do not delay serving the documents. They are how the solicitor knows you are disputing the charges on their bill and the date they need to attend the callover. The Court may reschedule your callover if you have not given the solicitor enough notice of the date.

How to serve documents

You, or someone acting on your behalf, must serve documents on the solicitor in person. This means you:

  • leave a copy of the documents with the solicitor at their office, or
  • if the solicitor does not accept them or refuses to see you, put the documents down near the solicitor or a staff member (such as a receptionist) and tell them the nature of the documents.

The Court may ask you to swear or affirm an affidavit proving you served the documents.

TIP: Although the documents must be served in person, you don’t need to do this yourself. You can ask a friend, family member or a professional to serve the documents for you. They must be prepared to sign an affidavit confirming they served the documents, if the Court requests this.

Stage 2 checklist  

  • Serve the Summons for Taxation form and the solicitor’s bill(s) on the solicitor 

 

Stage 3: Attend the callover

The callover is a short hearing to decide matters of timing and whether the case is suitable for mediation . The judicial officer may decide the case should go straight to a taxation hearing, without mediation.

The Court expects the applicant and respondent to attend. If you cannot attend for any substantial reason, for example if you have a medical emergency, contact the Court immediately.

Prepare for the callover

Callovers are held on a set date each month. Check your sealed Summons for Taxation form for the date and venue of your callover.

Dates are allocated in order of when the Summons for Taxation forms are accepted. A large number of matters may be listed for the same day. You need to wait for your matter to be called on the day.

The callover is not when you present your arguments to the Court. You will get a chance to do this at the mediation or taxation hearing.

After the callover

After the callover, the judicial officer will make orders that tell you what happens next and what you need to do to get your case ready for the review. This includes which documents to prepare and when they need to be filed with the Court.

Stage 3 checklist  

  • Check your Summons for Taxation for the date and venue of your callover
  • Attend the callover

 

Stage 4: Attend the mediation, if ordered

If your case is going straight to a taxation hearing you can skip this step. Usually, if one of the parties is self-represented the case goes straight to a taxation hearing.

Disputing specific items on an itemised bill

If you are disputing specific items on an itemised bill, you must file a document that identifies each item you want to dispute. This is your ‘Notice of objections’.

File this at least seven days before the mediation.

For each item, set out the grounds (reasons) that you object to the amount you were charged on the bill. Be specific and concise when explaining why you object to the amount. 

You must serve this document on the solicitor and anyone else named on the Summons for Taxation form.

After the mediation

If your case settles at the mediation, the judicial officer will send you orders that confirm what was agreed between you and your solicitor. The case now comes to an end. 

See Stage 5 for details on who to appeal to if you are not happy with the decision.

If your case does not settle (remains unresolved), the Court will usually order you and your solicitor to attend a taxation hearing at a later date.

Stage 4 checklist  

  • If you are disputing items on an itemised bill, at least seven days before the mediation, file a Notice of objections
  • Serve your Notice of objections on the solicitor and anyone else named on the Summons for Taxation form
  • Attend the mediation, if one is ordered 

 

Stage 5: Attend the taxation hearing

The taxation hearing is where you present your arguments to the Court.

Disputing specific items on an itemised bill

If you are disputing specific items on an itemised bill, you must file a document that identifies each item you want to dispute (if you have not done this already in Stage 4). This is your Notice of objections.

File this at least seven days before the taxation hearing.

For each item, set out the grounds (reasons) that you object to the amount you were charged on the bill. Be specific and concise when explaining why you object to the amount. 

You must serve this document on the solicitor and anyone else named on the Summons for Taxation form.

Preparing for your taxation hearing

Some things you can do to prepare for your taxation hearing:

  • Watch our videos about preparing for a hearing and attending Court 
  • Become familiar with all the information and material the solicitor sent you during the time you engaged their services, in case they are referred to during the hearing
  • If disputing specific items, bring to the hearing copies of the emails, letters or other materials that relate to the items
  • Prepare to present your arguments to the Court
  • Read any relevant rules and legislation , for example, order 63 of the Supreme Court (General Civil Procedure) Rules 2015.

Getting your decision

You usually get your decision at the hearing. After conducting a review, if the Costs Court reduces your solicitor’s bill by 15 per cent or more, then it may order the solicitor to pay your costs . If your solicitor’s bill is not reduced by this amount, the Costs Court may order you to pay your solicitor’s costs.

If you want a review of the decision

If you are unhappy with the decision, you have 14 days to request a review. However, if you are not successful in the review of the decision, the Court usually orders you to pay the other parties’ costs. 

Be aware, these costs can be substantial.

Who reviews the decision depends on who conducted the review of your solicitor’s bill:

  • If a Costs Registrar conducted the review, the decision is reviewed by a Judicial Registrar
  • If a Judicial Registrar conducted the review, the decision is reviewed by an Associate Judge
  • If an Associate Judge conducted the review, the decision is reviewed by a Judge
  • If a Judge conducted the review, the decision is reviewed by the Court of Appeal .
  • To apply for a review of the decision, see the Supreme Court (General Civil Procedure) Rules 2015 or contact the Self-represented Litigant Coordinator to discuss your situation.

Stage 5 checklist

  • If you are disputing items on an itemised bill, at least seven days before the taxation hearing file a Notice of objections (if you have not done this already in Stage 4)
  • Serve your Notice of objections on the solicitor and anyone else named on the Summons for Taxation form
  • Attend the taxation hearing
  • Know your options if you are unhappy with the decision and want a review

If you require further guidance contact the Self-Represented Litigant Coordinator.