find the latest legal job
Senior Associate - Litigation & Dispute Resolution
Category: Litigation and Dispute Resolution | Location: Melbourne CBD & Inner Suburbs Melbourne VIC
· Come work for a firm ranked in Lawyers Weekly Top 25 Attraction Firms
View details
Associate - Workplace Relations & Safety
Category: Industrial Relations and Employment Law | Location: Brisbane CBD & Inner Suburbs Brisbane QLD
· Employer of choice · Strong team culture
View details
Freelance Lawyers
Category: Banking and Finance Law | Location: All Perth WA
· Freelance opportunities through Vario from Pinsent Masons
View details
Freelance Lawyers
Category: Other | Location: All Adelaide SA
· • Qualified lawyer with a strong academic background
View details
Freelance Lawyers
Category: Other | Location: All Melbourne VIC
· • Qualified lawyer with a strong academic background
View details
‘Dodgy’ and ‘rapacious’ lawyers warning angers profession

‘Dodgy’ and ‘rapacious’ lawyers warning angers profession

“DODGY LAWYERS” became an issue of some contention between New South Wales’ first legal officer and a representative body of the legal profession last week, following a state-wide…

“DODGY LAWYERS” became an issue of some contention between New South Wales’ first legal officer and a representative body of the legal profession last week, following a state-wide report into legal fees.

The Law Society of New South Wales criticised NSW Attorney General, Bob Debus’ claims that the report, Legal Costs in New South Wales, by the Legal Fees Review Panel discloses that the current system of fees and charges is a significant contributor to the rising cost of legal services.

But, Law Society president June McPhie claimed last week, the Panel’s report acknowledged that less than nine per cent of cost disputes are based on claims of solicitors’ overcharging, while the number of complaints upheld is even smaller.

“The report accepts that the vast majority of solicitors do comply with the compulsory costs disclosure and also operate ethically and professionally,” said McPhie.

In fact, other factors also contribute to the high cost of litigation, she said, and the report acknowledges these. “These include excessive case management procedures, filing fees, and costs associated with subpoenas, expert witnesses and reports. All of which are out of the solicitor’s control.”

But the message from the Attorney General was stern and clear in purpose: “Dodgy Lawyers and rapacious legal firms have been put on notice that the days of outrageous billing practices are over,” his statement said.

The report has called for a cultural change in the legal profession, said Debus. This will see improved communication and transparency between lawyers and their clients and the report recommends an end to the dominance of time billing, he said.

“Many hard working people fear the prospect of engaging legal advice or services and ending up with an enormous bill. The practice of time billing, equivalent of a running meter, on long and complex matters can see legal bills blow out to the tune of thousands of dollars for private clients and hundreds of thousands for corporate clients,” Debus said.

He argued that transparency is the key, and that “everyone, including the profession, wants to see an end to the rorts”.

But the Law Society’s McPhie argues the “rigorous” disclosure laws in place have helped to maintain transparency, accountability and consumer confidence in the legal market.

In 2004, NSW Premier Bob Carr called for an inquiry into the legal costs system, including a calculation of prices and an examination of the methods used to present bills to clients. The inquiry was also to examine the mechanisms through which a client can object to fees they consider unfair.

Carr said at the time that “everyone has an anecdote about a lawyer handing them an outrageous bill, after a relatively small matter”. He argued that the time had come for there to be more scrutiny in the area.

There are hundreds of complaints each year about “rogue law firms”, said Carr.

Now the report has been released, relevant parties are commenting on the recommendations — but for the Law Society, some of the recommendations are seen as unreasonable.

McPhie argued that the legal profession is already heavily regulated. “NSW was the first state in Australia to adopt compulsory costs disclosure in 1994 and the Law Society has since worked diligently to ensure that solicitors comply with their obligations to clients, and the Panel’s report confirms a high level of success in this endeavour,” she said.

Like this story? Read more:

QLS condemns actions of disgraced lawyer as ‘stain on the profession’

NSW proposes big justice reforms to target risk of reoffending

The legal budget breakdown 2017

‘Dodgy’ and ‘rapacious’ lawyers warning angers profession
lawyersweekly logo
Promoted content
Recommended by Spike Native Network
more from lawyers weekly
microphone
Oct 20 2017
Podcast: One of law’s most infamous alumni – in conversation with Julian Morrow
In this episode of The Lawyers Weekly Show, Melissa Coade is joined by The Chaser’s Julian Morrow....
protest
Oct 20 2017
High Court overturns ‘excessive’ anti-protest legislation
Bob Brown’s recent victory in the High Court over the Tasmanian government was a win for fundament...
Blocked
Oct 20 2017
Changes to Australian citizenship laws blocked
Attempts to beef up the requirements to obtain Australian citizenship were thwarted this week, after...
APPOINTMENTS
Allens managing partner Richard Spurio, image courtesy Allens' website
Jun 21 2017
Promo season at Allens
A group of lawyers at Allens have received promotions across its PNG and Australian offices. ...
May 11 2017
Partner exits for in-house role
A Victorian lawyer has left the partnership of a national firm to start a new gig with state governm...
Esteban Gomez
May 11 2017
National firm recruits ‘major asset’
A national law firm has announced it has appointed a new corporate partner who brings over 15 years'...
opinion
Nicole Rich
May 16 2017
Access to justice for young transgender Australians
Reform is looming for the process that young transgender Australians and their families must current...
Geoff Roberson
May 11 2017
The lighter side of the law: when law and comedy collide
On the face of it, there doesn’t seem to be much that is amusing about the law, writes Geoff Rober...
Help
May 10 2017
Advocate’s immunity – without fear or without favour but not both
On 29 March 2017, the High Court handed down its decision in David Kendirjian v Eugene Lepore & ...