The Supreme Court of NSW recently delivered a giant decision about a solicitor’s costs agreement and a fight over the right to possession of the solicitor’s file. Acting Justice Debelle’s reasons in PM Sulcs & Associates Pty Ltd v Oliveri  NSWSC 456 exceed 33,333 words. Ultimately, his Honour found there was no costs agreements, with the result that legal costs, though still payable, were payable only on a quantum meruit basis at common law. Though what those fees amounted to on a quantum meruit basis was unascertained, no bills having been given on that basis, it was still enough to support the solicitor’s assertion of a lien for unpaid costs as justification for refusing to deliver up the file. I have not read the decision, but though an argument that there was a retrospecive costs agreement failed, it seems to have failed on the facts rather than on any legal difficulty with the concept of a retrospective costs agreement.
- Chakera v Kuzamanovic  VSC 92
- Winner gets indemnity costs but recovers less when loser proves winner’s costs agreement with his solicitors void
- More on the indemnity principle
- Solicitor secretly records client then sues them for ‘consultancy fees’ under 6 year old oral agreement over dinner
- What does ‘pro bono’ mean? Are ‘semi-pro bono’ costs agreements legally efficacious?