If a dispute is raised about a bill relating to a lawyer-client engagement, and the parties are unable to achieve a resolution through negotiation, the matter can be heard in the Cost Court and the following steps will occur in the order listed

  1. Submission of a Lawyer-Client Taxation Information Form – this can be issued by either party .
  2. Summons for Taxation of Costs – this can be issued by either party.
  3. The Summons will be listed for a directions hearing – this will be listed by the Court based on the information provided in Lawyer-Client Taxation Information Form.

A directions hearing is a short hearing before the Judicial Registrar where decisions about progressing the proceeding are made. All parties are expected to attend. The hearing includes setting a time frame for filing documents and generally, who needs to do what and by when. It is a chance for the Judicial Registrar to hear from the parties and decide whether the case is suitable for mediation or whether it should go directly to a taxation hearing.

Please refer to Practice Note SC GEN 11 Costs Court (Second Revision) for full details.

The date the client first instructed the lawyer (in relation to the disputed legal costs ) determines the legislation that applies to the costs dispute.

Revised Costs Court Practice Note and Draft Orders

All parties are expected to comply with the revised Costs Court Notice of Temporary Changes to Practice Note that commenced on 1 April 2020.  

In addition, the Court has published Guidance for Civil Proceedings Affected by Coronavirus and Information About Accessing Virtual Hearings resources. All practitioners and parties should familiarise themselves with these publications. 

Consent Orders

In order to manage the risks associated with COVID-19, all parties, where possible, are expected to provide any consent minutes as soon as possible, but preferably, no later than 48 hours prior to the hearing date. 

Subject to compliance with the Costs Court Notice of Temporary Changes to Practice Note, all parties are expected to confer for the purpose of reaching agreement and provide, if possible, consent minutes dealing with the upcoming hearing. Consent minutes must be received in signed PDF and Word versions.

Directions Hearing

Directions hearings are generally heard every six weeks on a Tuesday commencing at 9.30am. A list of dates for Directions Hearings is available below in the Taxation Direction Hearing Dates section. Appearances at a first directions hearing is required for all parties unless consent minutes are received and the Court has advised that it is willing to make the orders requested. Orders will be made on the papers in advance of the hearing. The parties are expected to confer and submit proposed consent orders prior to the hearing.

An explanation as to the urgency of the hearing, the proposed orders and any submissions to be relied on must be submitted by 2pm on the Friday prior to the directions hearing date. The Court will then consider the material and advise the parties whether the hearing will proceed, whether it will be adjourned or whether the issue in dispute will be determined on the papers. 

In the event a hearing is required, hearing times will be staggered and will be conducted via an online platform. Each party appearing must provide by 4pm on the Friday prior to the directions hearing with the name of the individual appearing, their email address and contact phone number.
Please check the usual distributed directions hearing list and any meeting invites for the time allocated for matter.

Email

In the first instance, all correspondence with the Court in relation to all Costs Court directions hearing matters must be directed to jbbq.nffbpvngr@fhcpbheg.ivp.tbi.nhua.vog.civ.truocpus@etaicossa.doow .

Please inform any other interested parties.

You may consider representing yourself in a lawyer-client costs dispute before the Costs Court. Cost matters can be very complex and technical. It is strongly recommended that you seek legal advice from either another lawyer or a specialist costs lawyer/consultant.

An online search for 'Costs Lawyers Melbourne', for example, should provide you with the contact details for individuals who practice in this area. Costs lawyers can also be found on the Law Institute of Victoria’s Find Your Lawyer page.  

PLEASE NOTE
Legal proceedings in the Supreme Court can be very expensive.

If after the review the bill from your lawyer(s) is not reduced by 15 per cent or more, then the Costs Court may order you to pay the lawyer(s) costs of the taxation proceeding. A Costs Court proceeding can be expensive.

If you choose to represent yourself in a Costs Court proceeding, you can access a comprehensive guide to representing yourself when requesting a review of your lawyer's bill in the Costs Court

If the lawyer provides a lump sum bill, the client can request an itemised bill. The request must be made within 30 days after the date on which the legal costs become payable. The lawyer must provide an itemised bill within 21 days of the request. 

If it has been more than 30 days after the date on which the legal costs became payable, a request can be made at the first directions hearing for an order that the lawyer(s) file an itemised bill with the Costs Court and serve a copy on the client.
 

Part 4.3 of the Legal Profession Uniform Law 2014 applies to costs disputes between a lawyer and client. There are two ways of attempting to resolve your costs dispute:

  • You may complain to the Legal Services Commissioner if your bill is under $100,000 or, if more than that amount, 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. There are no costs orders made by the Legal Services Commissioner.

  • In any matter, no matter what the amount of the bill or the amount in dispute, you may apply to the Costs Court to assess your lawyer's bill of costs. Please refer to the Costs Court for information on current procedures.

If you apply to the Costs Court, the Court may order you (or the lawyer) 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 the date the bill was given to the client, or a request for payment was made and you first instructed your lawyer after 1 July 2015, you may make an application to the Supreme Court to extend time to issue a Summons for Taxation. This is not an application to the Costs Court, but is made to a Judge of the Court.

The Court will consider the reasons for the delay and whether it is just and fair for the application to be dealt with after the 12-month period. The application must be accompanied by an affidavit 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.

A fee is required for this application unless you have a fee waiver.

Part 3.4 and 4.2 of the Legal Profession Act 2004 applies to lawyer-client costs disputes. There are two ways of attempting to resolve your costs dispute:

  • 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. 
  • In all matters, irrespective of the amount in dispute, you can apply to the Costs Court to review your lawyer’s bill. This includes Family Court costs disputes where you first engaged your lawyer after 1 July 2008.

Be aware that if you apply to the Costs Court, the Court may order you or the lawyer to pay the legal costs of the costs dispute.

If you have a dispute with your lawyer 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. This is not an application to the Costs Court, but is made to a Judge of the Court.

The Court will consider the reason for the delay and whether it is just and fair for the application to be dealt with after the 12-month period. This application must be accompanied by an affidavit  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.

A fee is required for this application unless you have a fee waiver.

The Legal Practice Act 1996 applies to costs disputes to the Costs Court where the lawyer was first instructed to act on behalf of the client before 12 December 2005.

Lawyer-client matters, and any other matters deemed appropriate, are listed for a direction hearing . Hearing are subject to change, so please check the Daily List

The Court does not usually authenticate orders made at a directions hearing . Parties requiring an authenticated order should contact the Associate to Associate Justice Wood by email after the directions hearing to request an authenticated order.

2020 Dates

Directions hearing date Summons cut-off date
4 February 2020 21 January 2020
17 March 2020 3 March 2020
5 May 2020 21 April 2020
16 June 2020 2 June 2020
28 July 2020 14 July 2020
8 September 2020 25 August 2020
20 October 2020 6 October 2020
8 December 2020 24 November 2020

2021 Dates

Directions hearing date Summons cut-off date
9 February 2021 19 January 2021
16 March 2021 2 March 2021
4 May 2021 20 April 2021
15 June 2021 1 June 2021
27 July 2021 13 July 2021
7 September 2021 24 August 2021
19 October 2021 5 October 2021
7 December 2021 23 November 2021

A fee is payable for filing a Summons for Taxation unless you have a fee waiver. Additional fees are payable if you seek to file an application for leave to file a Summons for Taxation out of time.

  • If the Court reduces the bill in a lawyer--client costs dispute by:
    • One sixth or more (if you first instructed your lawyers prior to 12 December 2005).
    • 15 per cent or more (if you first instructed your lawyers on or after 12 December 2005).

The Court may order that the lawyer(s) pay your costs of the Costs Court proceeding. 

  • If the bill in a lawyer-client costs dispute is not reduced by:
    • One sixth or more (if you first instructed your solicitors prior to 12 December 2005).
    • 15 per cent or more (if you first instructed your solicitors on or after 12 December 2005).

The Costs Court may order that you pay the costs of the Costs Court proceeding.
 

If you first instructed a lawyer to act on your behalf in a legal matter after 12 December 2005, you have 12 months from the date you received your final lawyer’s bill to apply for a Costs Court review.

You may have received several bills over the course of your lawyer’s engagement. However, only the date of the final bill is relevant to the time limits.

Requesting an extension of the time limit

If more than 12 months have passed since you received your final bill, and you first instructed your lawyer after 12 December 2005, you can make an application to the Supreme Court to extend the time. This is not an application to the Costs Court, but is made to a Judge of the Court.

The extension of time application must be accompanied by an affidavit you prepare that outlines the reasons why you are applying late, and why it is just and fair to extend the time limit.

The Court will consider the reasons for the delay and if it is just and fair to accept your late application. A fee is required, unless you have a fee waiver.

Unless otherwise specified, the rules referenced in this section refer to the Supreme Court (General Civil Procedure) Rules 2015.

  • There is a 14-day time limit to seek a review or reconsideration of decision in a Cost Court proceeding. 
  • To review a decision in proceedings issued prior to 1 October 2018, Rules 63.56.1 to 63.57 apply.
  • To review a decision in proceedings issued on or after 1 October 2018, Rules 63.90 to 63.107 apply.
  • If a decision in a costs dispute is made by a Costs Registrar , the review is generally conducted by a Judicial Registrar .
  • If a decision in a costs dispute is made by a Judicial Registrar, the review is conducted by a Costs Judge 
  • If a decision in a costs dispute is made by a Costs Judge, the review is conducted by a Judge of the Supreme Court.
     

Phone: +61 (03) 8600 2162 
Email: pbfgf.pbheg@fhcpbheg.ivp.tbi.nhua.vog.civ.truocpus@truoc.stsoc
Facsimile: +61 (03) 9603 9320