A bill may be in the form of a lump sum bill or an itemised bill, and must be given in accordance with Rule 73 of the Legal Profession Uniform General Rules 2015 (the Uniform Rules).
If a bill is given in the form of a lump sum bill, any person who is entitled to apply for an assessment of the legal costs may request an itemised bill. The time requirements that apply for such requests are set out in s187 of the Uniform Law.
The Uniform Rules detail what happens when an itemised bill is higher than the lump sum bill. In this case, the additional costs may be recovered by the law practice only if:
- when the lump sum bill was given, the law practice made an appropriately worded disclosure in writing to the client indicating that the total amount of the legal costs specified in any itemised bill may be higher than the amount specified in the lump sum bill; and
- the costs are determined to be payable after a costs assessment or after a binding determination under s292 of the Uniform Law.
Principal responsible for bill
A bill given by a law practice, or a letter accompanying the bill, must –
- be signed by a principal of the law practice designated in the bill or letter as the responsible principal for the bill; or
- nominate a principal of the law practice as the responsible principal for the bill.
A law practice must give a client, on reasonable request, without charge and within a reasonable period, a written report of the legal costs incurred by the client to date, or since the last bill (if any) in the matter.
Charging for bills prohibited
A law practice must not make a charge for preparing or giving a bill, and any charge made for that purpose is not recoverable by the law practice.
Notification of client’s rights
A law practice must ensure that a bill includes or is accompanied by a written statement setting out the avenues open to the client in the event of a costs dispute and the time limits that apply to any action. These avenues include:
- making a complaint to the Victorian Legal Services Commissioner under Chapter 5 of the Uniform Law;
Generally, a costs dispute must be raised within 60 days after the legal costs became payable; or if an itemised bill was requested, within 30 days after the request was complied with (s272).
- applying for a costs assessment under s198 of the Uniform Law.
Generally, an application for a costs assessment must be made within 12 months after the bill was given.
A law practice may give a person an interim bill covering part only of the legal services the law practice was retained to provide.
For more information about legal costs, please see the following pages: