As a general rule, lawyers do not use conditional cost agreements for commercial transactions. But there is room for manoeuvre. A transaction lawyer may enter into a conditional agreement if he agrees to accept a reduced fee if the transaction is inconclusive. This agreement would correspond to s283 (1). If the case were successful, the practitioner would then calculate normal rates and an increase or success fee. In transactions, there is no problem with eroded damage and undercompensated parts. Lawyers working outside of compensation procedures should consider conditional cost agreements and increase fees as a useful way to differentiate their practices and attract businesses. For the work related to the case, you can only charge fair and reasonable costs. Their costs must also be reasonable and proportionate to related work. In your cost agreement, you can impose a condition so that you only get paid for your work if you achieve a successful result. A “No win no-fee” agreement is an example. The Legal Services Council has prepared a fact sheet on cost agreements available on its website.
If costs are generally reduced by more than 15%, the lawyer must bear these costs. To terminate a fee contract, you must contact the Supreme Court or the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal. For each cost agreement (probably more than $1,500), your lawyer must inform you in writing: an increase is where the practitioner can calculate normal rates, but can then calculate a success fee after the case closes. Royalties for the increase were limited to conditional cost agreements for which “some or all of the legal costs depend on the success of the issue to which these costs relate” (s283 (1)). The increase fee can be up to 25% of the usual fee. In short, if the legal fees for a case reach $100,000.00, the practitioner, whose cost agreement allows it, may charge a premium of up to $25,000.00 if the case is successfully resolved. If your bill is likely to exceed $1,500, your lawyer will need to provide you with a notice of disclosure of fees when negotiating your cost agreement. Your lawyer must tell you (in writing) what the rate of increase fees is and what a “successful” result means to you. For conditional cost agreements, there is a five-day cooling-off period. A cost disclosure explains how they charge for the estimated total costs and costs. Your lawyer must inform you in writing that you have the right to request a broken-down invoice. A detailed bill defines the work done by your lawyer and what was billed for each piece of work.
It must be communicated to you within 28 days of your application. You can request a fee assessment by contacting your nearest courthouse. There is a fee to charge for a cost assessment and the expert the court appoints will also charge you. These “conditional cost agreements” must be concluded in writing and must be clear. You must include all the conditions that you define as a successful result, and they must be accepted in writing or cannot be applied. If you have a conditional fee agreement (no profit, no fees), your lawyer may charge an increase fee. This is a supplement that you pay if your business is successful. If costs are reduced by less than 15%, you must pay these fees. These costs can be very costly. You can ask the Tribunal or the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal to terminate a cost agreement. Talk to your lawyer first if you think the cost agreement is unfair. If you and your lawyer cannot agree, you can request that the court appoint an independent person to review your bill.
This is called a cost assessment. If you are interested in entering into conditional cost contracts with uplift Coulson Legal is able to assist in the development of such agreements.