Conduct & client care rules for fees

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A lawyer must not charge a client more than a fee that is fair and reasonable for the services provided, having regard to the interests of both client and lawyer and having regard also to the factors set out below.

Reasonable fee factors
The factors to be taken into account in determining the reasonableness of a fee in respect of any service provided by a lawyer to a client include the following:

  • the time and labour expended (including time carrying out legislative compliance such as Anti-Money Laundering);
  • the skill, specialised knowledge, and responsibility required to perform the services properly;
  • the importance of the matter to the client and the results achieved;
  • the urgency and circumstances in which the matter is undertaken and any time limitations imposed, including those imposed by the client;
  • the degree of risk assumed by the lawyer in undertaking the services, including the amount or value of any property involved;
  • the complexity of the matter and the difficulty or novelty of the questions involved;
  • the experience, reputation, and ability of the lawyer;
  • the possibility that the acceptance of the particular retainer will preclude engagement of the lawyer by other clients;
  • whether the fee is fixed or conditional (whether in litigation or otherwise);
  • any quote or estimate of fees given by the lawyer;
  • any fee agreement (including a conditional fee agreement) entered into between the lawyer and client;
  • the reasonable costs of running a practice;
  • the fee customarily charged in the market and locality for similar legal services.

Fee Agreements
The terms of any fee agreement between a lawyer and client must be fair and reasonable, having regard to the interests of both client and lawyer.

Fees in Advance
A lawyer who wishes to debit fees held in trust or to receive funds to cover fees in advance must comply with the requirements of regulations 9 and 10 of the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act (Trust Account) Regulations 2008.

Fee Information and Advice
A lawyer must upon request provide an estimate of fees and inform the client promptly if it becomes apparent that the fee estimate is likely to be exceeded. Where a client may be eligible for legal aid, a lawyer must inform the client of this and whether or not the lawyer is prepared to work on legally aided matters.

Final Account
A lawyer must render a final account to the client or person charged within a reasonable time of concluding a matter or the retainer being otherwise terminated. The lawyer must provide with the account sufficient information to identify the matter, the period to which it relates, and the work undertaken.

November 2020