Lawyers’ fees are hot news all of a sudden

Update, 26 June 2008: The managing partner of the controversial NSW personal injury practice referred to below was fined $10,000 by the Administrative Decisions Tribunal’s Legal Services List for advertising in contravention of conduct rules despite a prior warning from the Legal Services Commissioner.  One wonders whether any enquiry was entered into about how much business was generated by the advertising.  If not, the fine of $10,000 may in fact attract further breaches of the law as a cost effective means  of buying your way out of the prohibition on advertising.

The Australian reports that there are calls for national unification of the over-complicated and increasingly divergent costs disclosure regimes around the country.

Original article: Front page article in The Melbourne Times: ‘Case for Change: Putting the Cost of Justice on Trial’. It’s all about a pack of convicted crims who have set up an electronic vehicle for the dissemination of jailhouse savvy, the wonderfully named ‘Crimassist‘. They tend towards the view that legal fees are a bit on the high side. You can bet your bottom dollar that the unqualified practice boffin at the Law Institute is watching keenly despite the anonymous website proprietors’ brilliant anti-conviction technique of plastering the site with explanations that none of it is legal advice. Then there’s a long Sydney Morning Herald article about a prominent Sydney personal injuries practice which is either so seriously on the nose that it’s surprising that their practising certificates haven’t been suspended, or, as they say, victims of a terrible vendetta by embittered former employees who are controlling and manipulating their former clients. If nothing else, it must be said that the firm is very generous: when one of its clients complained of overcharging, it flicked him $100,000 and later said it was just a commercial goodwill gesture, and no admission at all of overcharging. Then Victoria’s Attorney-General has lashed out at barristers’ fees out of the blue, prompting a fairly strong response from the likes of Richter and Burnside QCs. Mr Hulls is incensed that barristers are charging up to $14,000 a day. The Bar responds that only one barrister is charging that, and most barristers earn more like $100 a day. Anyway, I remember hearing a plausible rumour at the height of Alan Bond’s need for lawyers that a QC who is now a well-known judge was charging $13,500 a day, so it would seem that the Bar’s upper echelons’ fees have been decreasing in real terms over the last 10 to 15 years. Mr Hulls has been campaigning unsuccessfully to abolish advocates’ immunity nationally ever since the Full Court of the High Court handed down its 7-0 decision in favour of the retention of the immunity a few years ago, and he and the Bar, presently personnified by its chairman Peter Riordan, aren’t getting along so well. In fact, Paul Keating and Dr Mahatir look positively chummy by comparison.

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One Reply to “Lawyers’ fees are hot news all of a sudden”

  1. According to those on my floor of chambers, there are three barristers at the Victorian Bar who charge $14,000 or more for a days’ work. It is an outrageous fee but commercial clients do not seem to mind, instead clamouring to brief them.

    Hulls’ use of the upper price is predictable given his dislike of the Victorian Bar. The claim, though, by the Victorian Bar that most barristers earn more like $100 a day is laughable. Who earns $100 a day (even after costs)? Even legal aid pays more than that.

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