Terms of Engagement
1. How does the Firm charge?
The Firm’s fees are charged in accordance with guidelines laid down by the Queensland Law Society. In fixing the fee the Firm is entitled to take account of matters such as
the time spent
the skill and knowledge and responsibility required
the value of property involved
the complexity novelty importance and urgency of the matter
the reasonable costs of running a practice.
2. Client’s Instructions
The Firm will only act on the Clients clear instructions. Where the Client can not or will not provide such instructions the Firm will cease work until these are received and cannot accept any liability in such circumstances.
By instructing the Firm the Client accepts liability to pay the account that the Firm will render for work done and all agency disbursements incurred in respect of such instructions.
3. Estimate of Fees
When the Firm opens a file the Firm does not know how significant the factors in clause 1 will be. It is therefore usually impossible to give a fixed quote.
Where possible the Firm will give the Client an estimate. The estimate will be the Firm’s “best guess” as to what the fee is likely to be. If however the work does not proceed as the Firm had expected due to unexpected complications, or if the work proves more complicated than originally anticipated, the Firm reserves the right to charge for all additional work done. This will be based on the Firm’s usual hourly rate as advised to the Client.
If it appears that the estimate will be exceeded the Firm will advise the Client of the reasons and obtain further instructions from the Client.
4. When will the Client be billed?
Generally property and similar transactional matters will be billed at the time of settlement or on completion of the work.
It the work is going to extend over a longer period of time the Firm will bill the Client on a monthly basis. This will help the Client by spreading the payments over time. It will also enable the Client to keep track of how much the work is costing. Where files are billed monthly the Client’s account will usually be calculated purely on the basis of the time spent. When a final bill is rendered an adjustment may be made to allow for those factors mentioned above.
5. What about cash payments the Client has to make?
Payments may have to be made to other people for things to be done, for example filing fees, search fees, agency fees and similar payments (called disbursements). The Firm cannot pay these amounts for the Client unless the Firm receives payment from the Client first. The Firm reserves the right to ask either for these specific amounts or for an approximate amount to cover these expenses to be paid to ensure that the Firm is not out of pocket.
If Counsel is to be instructed the Firm reserves the right to require payment of Counsel’s estimated fees into the Firm’s trust account beforehand. By instructing Counsel the Firm undertakes an obligation to pay Counsel’s fees and accordingly requires to be protected for these. The Firm may require the Client to enter a payment arrangement directly with Counsel.
6. When does the Client have to pay?
The Firm’s accounts are all due upon issue of the Firm’s invoice. If the Firm is holding money for the Client (for example from the sale of the Client’s house) the Firm will deduct the account from that money and give the Client a full statement.
In certain circumstances the Firm may agree to fees being paid by way of automatic payment authority. The Firm is not obliged to agree to such a proposal and the provisions of clause 8 may apply to such an arrangement.
7. What if the Client can’t pay on time?
If the Client anticipates difficulty in the payment of any account the Client must contact the Firm at the first available opportunity and discuss arrangements for payment.. If the Firm incurs costs in obtaining payment the Client will be liable for those costs.
8. Companies and trusts
If the Client is instructing the Firm in the Client’s capacity as a director or shareholder of a company or as a settlor or trustee of a trust or executor or administrator of an estate then the Client’s instructions are accepted on the basis that the Client remains at all-times personally liable (along with the company, trust or estate) to pay the Firm’s fees and disbursements.
Where work has been done by the Firm but the Firm has not been paid by the Client then as a general rule the Firm has the right to retain certain original documents and correspondence on the Client’s file until such time as all outstanding fees, disbursements and other expenses have been paid. This is known as a lien. This will be particularly important in circumstances where you decide for whatever reason to instruct another Firm. That Firm may be obliged to give an undertaking to pay all outstanding fees and disbursements before your file is released to it.
10. Problems or Concerns
The Firm is bound by the Rules of Professional Conduct for Barristers and Solicitors, which are administered by the Queensland Law Society. Among other things those Rules spell out the procedures for dealing with complaints on the revision of fees charged.
Should the Client be unhappy with or uncertain about any aspect of the Firm’s work or billing the Client must tell the Firm promptly. The Client should start with the practitioner doing the work and if still dissatisfied seek to speak to the partner of the Firm overseeing the Client’s matter. The contact number of the practitioner and partner are listed on our web page.
If a solution cannot be found between the Firm and the Client the Law Society will assist.