Solicitor uses VCAT’s civil jurisdiction successfully to sue for fees

Property and Business Commercial Lawyers v Dean [2006] VCAT 1492

The work of VCAT’s Legal Practice List extends beyond the work formerly carried out by the Legal Profession Tribunal, as evidenced by this decision of Senior Member Howell upholding a solicitor’s suit for fees against his former client. The solicitor quoted $650 for a conveyace and 1.5 hours’ work at $250 per hour in relation to the documentation of a loan. The course of the retainer changed and it was common ground more was involved than originally anticipated. A bill was delivered for $1,792, double the estimate. The failure to give an updated estimate under s. 89 of the Legal Practice Act, 1996 was of no consequence to the solicitor’s suit for fees: it had effect only on the taxation of a bill of costs or in a costs dispute: s. 91. This was neither; it was a simple civil suit for fees brought by the solicitor in VCAT under the Fair Trading Act, 1999 (Vic.). Mr Howell indicated that had s. 91 had application he would have knocked 10% off the bill. He ordered the client to pay the bill and awarded interest on it.A misconceived counter-claim was dismissed.

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