Dal Pont’s Law of Costs (5th ed, 2021), a review

Here is my review of the latest edition of Professor Dal Pont‘s Law of Costs, published in the latest (December) edition of the Law Institute Journal:

‘Law of Costs 

Professor Gino Dal Pont, (5th edn), 2021, LexisNexis, pb $460

Everyone thinks they know the law of costs and we look it up too infrequently, but costs lawyers spend their lives mopping up after errors made by litigators, KCs and judges included. Sometimes, a mop up is not possible, and in the realm of solicitor-client costs, lawyers are forced into quiet but devastating settlements by which they give up and disgorge costs to the tune of many hundreds of thousands of dollars at a time, more often than might be imagined.

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Dr Mark Friston’s ‘Civil Costs’: a Review

Jordans, a Bristol publisher, kindly sent me a copy of Dr Mark Friston’s Civil Costs; Law and Practice.  It was published as a first edition in April 2010 at a cost of ₤75.  A monumental work of over 1200 pages, it competes in England with LexisNexis’s Cook on Costs, published annually. Its scope may be divined from the statement of contents here.  Dr Friston is a practising barrister with a particular interest in class actions who has specifically set out to write a practitioner’s text,  stating the law without unnecessary excursions into what the law used to be, or what it should be.  The relevant legislation is reproduced, and there are precedents up the back, including precedents for the suit for fees, and the defence in such a suit. It is replete with pin-point citation of modern authority.  It is a good book, and one that I am pleased to have in my library. All Australian costs lawyers probably have Dal Pont’s The Law of Costs ($275) and access to Roger Quick and David Garnsworthy’s Quick on Costs ($2,400), but Friston’s text does not appear to be held by the Law Institute Library or the Victorian Supreme Court Library. To have the English law in one’s chambers is to have a competitive advantage for those called on to argue difficult costs cases, or to argue key concepts in Victoria’s Civil Procedure Act, 2010 which have for some time already been a part of the English civil procedure landscape, such as the concept of proportionalilty in the award of costs. Continue reading “Dr Mark Friston’s ‘Civil Costs’: a Review”

Ian Enright’s Professional Indemnity Insurance Law

I have a bad habit of buying books which cost several hundred dollars each and get overtaken by new editions after a couple of years. I am yet to experience the pain of an expensive text I have bought going into a new edition though, so nascent is my career as a barrister.  About this time last year, I had lunch with a judge of the Supreme Court who told me to my absolute astonishment that at the height of his career at the Bar, he spent $80,000 a year on books and reports. That news did me no good at all.

Texts are good, a basic fact of legal life which young lawyers are rapidly overlooking.  Without text writers, the law could not possibly survive in its current form.  They have an important function.  They ignore the bad decisions and explain what the long ones mean.

I picked up most of the library of John de Konig when he retired in June.  So I’m seriously well stocked for insurance texts — Sutton’s Insurance Law in Australia, Derrington’s Liability Insurance Law, Kelly & Ball’s Principles of Insurance Law, Mann’s Annotated Insurance Contracts Act, Tarr’s Australian Insurance Law, Clarke’s The Law of Insurance Contracts, Ivamy’s General Principles of Insurance Law, and even Mitchell’s The Law of Subrogation (feel free to come and borrow them).

Recently I picked up a serious text: Ian Enright and Digby Jess’s Anglo-Australian Professional Indemnity Insurance Law, Second Edition, December 2007.  It has a green faux leather hard cover with gold lettering.   Published by Thomson, it’s almost 1,000 pages long, and retails at $541.  It’s a monumental work, the only one devoted exclusively to its subject, and it naturally won the 2008 British Insurance Law Association prize for the most notable contribution to the literature of insurance law for the year.  It’s a good book because it achieves one of Enright’s aims, which was to start each topic at the start so as to make it accessible to the non-specialist reader.  It is well-organised, and carefully cross-referenced.  And it contains lots of answers, which is handy because that’s what I’m in the business of selling. Continue reading “Ian Enright’s Professional Indemnity Insurance Law”

New writing about the law in Melbourne

A Melbourne lawyer has written a book about a landmark Melbourne case. Michelle Schwarz’s A Question of Power; The Geoff Clark Case has just been published by Morrie Schwarz’s Black Inc which also publishes The Monthly and Quarterly Essay. Judging by the ‘top articles this month’ panel, there is a huge thirst out there for knowledge about limitation periods. One of the Clark decisions is a landmark in that area of the law: Stingel v Clark [2006] HCA 37.

I bought the book yesterday and have started reading it. It’s promising. It features slabs of Robert Richter’s cross-examination. It is a book about a trial of a kind which I have not seen too many examples of in recent times. Schwarz is doing a Readings talk with ABC Radio National’s Damien Carrick of the Law Report tomorrow evening at the Hawthorn store. The blurb says: Continue reading “New writing about the law in Melbourne”

Black and white

On Australia Day, I watched the 2002 film ‘Black and White’, about the Max Stuart case. I had picked up historian Ken Inglis’s book on the case at a church fete the other month, thinking it was the kind of thing a young barrister should have in his chambers, and flicked through it at the time before putting it in the waiting room for unread books. It was an excellent film, and I’ve reshuffled the book towards the front of the waiting room. Max Stuart is an aborigine who worked at a travelling fun fair. He was convicted of murder in 1959 on the flimsiest circumstantial evidence and a confession. He had previously been convicted of indecently assaulting a girl, had been a bare knuckle boxer, and was a heavy drinker. Continue reading “Black and white”

2nd edition of Professional Liability in Australia reviewed

I was already a fan of the first edition of Judge Stephen Walmsley SC, Alister Abadee, and Ben Zipser‘s excellent Professional Liability in Australia, published by Thomson, and had been waiting for the new edition with interest. I got myself a copy the other day. It’s good, and there are substantial additions since the first edition, including a lot on expert evidence, a new bit on professional discipline, analysis of the Financial Services Reform Act, 2001, analysis of the cases on the civil liability acts and a good analysis of proportionate liability.

It is a text which delves into all of the legislation which clusters around professional liability these days and grapples with it, a thankless task for an Australian text writer compelled to read and understand all of the states’ and territories’ regimes and then synthesise them. So the availability of compensation in professional discipline regimes is treated properly, as is the effect of professional standards legislation, which caps liability for scheme mebers. The research is wide-ranging and thorough: a VCAT decision is cited. It is written from a practical perspective rather than a theoretical perspective. There is not the over-reliance on English authority which sometimes characterises texts in this area. The writing tends to take positions rather than carrying on at great length about parallel or divergent lines of authorities without suggesting which is to be preferred. One suspects that bad decisions have simply been ignored in the hope that they will be forgotten. If only more text writers would operate in this fashion.

Professional negligence is one of those areas of law in which everyone claims to be a specialist. There are, for example, 387 barristers at the Victorian Bar who claim on their web profile to practise in professional negligence. Then there are undoubtedly many others, like me, who haven’t listed their practice areas using the scheme which allows for searching like that.

Thomson has kindly offered a 10% discount for readers of this blog if you go to their bookshop at 160 William St, Melbourne. Alternatively, the book can be purchased online, for $220 inclusive of postage and handling.

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Pizer’s Annotated VCAT Act comes into third edition


My friend Jason Pizer had the launch of the third edition of his book this week, and I went along and enjoyed the company of VCAT’s Acting President John Bowman, Deputy President Marilyn Harbison, and Justice Chris Maxwell, President of the Court of Appeal.  It’s the VCAT equivalent of Williams, the looseleaf ‘Bible’ of civil procedure in the state courts.  Compared with Williams, it is a joy to use. It has the same in-court handling as the ‘Cook Book’. It has serious traction with the members over there. It’s full of intellectual grunt. And it’s about one-tenth of the price of Williams at $130. Continue reading “Pizer’s Annotated VCAT Act comes into third edition”

‘The Cook Book’: a review

I never really got into Richard Cook‘s The Annotated Rules of Court as a solicitor. Because it is not published by either of the two lawbook houses, I suspect it languishes under-utilised, but it can be purchased online from the Law Institute Bookshop. I had access to Williams online on my computer, and a copy of Williams’s 3 volume looseleaf service on my floor. Yet I remember wandering around playing that dreadful game “Where’s Williams?” a lot, and being frustrated by the online thing. My suite mate Richard gave me a copy of the ‘Cook Book’ in one of the many acts of generosity by the institution of the Bar and by individual members which I have been experiencing during my reading period. He presents annually in a War and Peaceish-sized paperback for a very reasonable $130:

  • the Chapter I civil procedure rules of the Supreme, County, and Magistrates’ Courts;
  • all the civil forms used in those courts;
  • their scales of costs; and
  • in the commentary, much of what one needs to know from the statutes which govern the Court, such as the Magistrates’ Court Act, 1989. Continue reading “‘The Cook Book’: a review”

Roisin Annesley’s Victorian Barristers’ practice guide

The Bar has produced a practice guide. It is a great achievement and stands as a beacon for the Law Institute’s future efforts at promulgating knowledge of the practice rules. The Bar actually has something called the Professional Standards Education Committee. Written by Roisin Annesley, it was launched by Victoria Marles, the Legal Services Commissioner on 18 October 2006, and distributed free to every member of the Bar. Annesley has done a lot of work as Counsel Assisting the Legal Profession Tribunal (and continues to do occasional work assisting the Legal Practice List at VCAT). A doyen of professional discipline, Paul Lacava SC, and a judge who has excoriated Professional Standards, Justice Gillard, are credited with substantial involvement. It has chapters on: Continue reading “Roisin Annesley’s Victorian Barristers’ practice guide”