If you're unhappy about your lawyer's bill you may dispute the amount charged. Apart from negotiating directly with your lawyer, the date on which you first instructed your solicitor determines how you may act to resolve your dispute. 

Part 3.4 and 4.2 of the Legal Profession Act 2004 applies to costs disputes to the Costs Court.

There are three ways of attempting to resolve your costs dispute:

  1. If your bill is under $25,000 you may complain to the Legal Services Commissioner. There are strict time limits in place for these complaints ' contact the Legal Services Commissioner for more information.
  2. If your bill is over $25,000 or you're outside the time to complain to the Legal Services Commissioner, you may be able to apply to have the amount charged by your solicitor assessed by the Costs Court, in all matters including the Family Court costs matters where you first engaged your solicitor after 1 July 2008.
  3. You may also request that the Costs Court assess your lawyer's bill even if the amount of the bill is less than $25,000.

If you apply to the Costs Court, the Court may order you or the solicitor to pay the legal costs of the costs dispute.

If you have a dispute with your solicitor about a costs agreement you may apply to VCAT to set aside the Costs Agreement on the basis that it is not fair or reasonable.

Your lawyer may also issue proceedings in the Costs Court if there is a dispute and you fail to pay a bill of costs. 

Applications to the Costs Court for taxation out of time (outside 12 months)

If you first instructed your lawyer between 12 December 2005 and 1 July 2015 you may make an application to the Supreme Court to extend time. In this case the Court will have to consider the reason for the delay and whether or not it is just and fair for the application to be dealt with after the 12 month period. A fee may be required for this application. This application must be accompanied by an affidavit by you setting out the reasons why the Summons for Taxation is being filed out of time and why it is just and fair to extend the time limit.

The Legal Practice Act 1996 applies to costs disputes to the Costs Court.

If you first instructed a solicitor to act on your behalf in relation to a particular matter before 12 December 2005, and a costs agreement was signed where costs were not calculated according to a court scale (for example, if costs were charged on an hourly rate), then the Costs Court cannot assess the bill.

Time limits apply for a review of these costs.

Part 4.3 of the Legal Profession Uniform Law 2014 applies to costs disputes to the Costs Court. There are three ways of attempting to resolve your costs dispute:

  1. You may complain to the Legal Services Commissioner if your bill is under $100,000 or if more than that amount and the amount in dispute is less than $10,000. Please contact the Legal Services Commissioner for further information. Strict time limits apply to these complaints.
  2. If you are out of time to complain to the Legal Services Commissioner, or your bill is over $100,000, you may also commence proceedings in the Costs Court. Refer to Costs Court for information on current procedures. 
  3. In any matter, no matter what the amount of the bill of costs is, you may apply to the Costs Court to assess your lawyer's bill of costs, even if the amount in dispute is less than $100,000.

If you apply to the Costs Court, the Court may order you or the solicitor to pay the legal costs of the costs dispute. Your lawyer may also issue proceedings in the Costs Court if there is a dispute and you fail to pay a bill of costs.

Applications to the Costs Court for taxation out of time (outside 12 months)

If 12 months have elapsed from receipt of the bill, and you first instructed your solicitor after 1 July 2015, you may make an application to the Costs Court to extend the time. The Court will have to consider the reason for the delay and whether or not it is just and fair for the application to be dealt with after the 12 month period. A fee may be required for this application.  This application must be accompanied by an affidavit by you setting out the reasons why the Summons for Taxation is being filed out of time, and why it is just and fair to extend the time limit.