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精品文档,值得收藏精品文档,值得下载COAGNationalLegalProfessionReformDiscussionPaperLegalCostsIntroductionAustraliaslegalmarketprimarilyservicestwobroadcategoriesofclientretailconsumers,whotendtobeinfrequentpurchasersoflegalservicesandsophisticatedorinstitutionalclientswhogenerallyarerepeatpurchasersandexperiencedcommercialoperators.1Eachgrouphasdifferentlevelsoffamiliaritywithlegalprocessesanddifferentlevelsofbargainingpowerinrelationtolegalcosts.TheStandingCommitteeofAttorneysGeneralrecognisedthisinapprovingseparatecostsdisclosureandassessmentregimesforsophisticatedandretailclientsunderthenationallegalprofessionmodellegislationModelBill.Whilesophisticatedclientsusuallyareabletonegotiatetheirlegalcostsbasedonpreviousexperienceinsimilarmattersandcommercialdecisionsaboutthevalueoftheworktotheirbusiness,retailconsumersgenerallyhavelessexperienceorinformationwhenengagingalegalpractitionerorlawpractice.Thecomplexandspecialisednatureoflegalworkalsomeansthatretailconsumerscanhavelimitedcapacitytodeterminewhetherworkisnecessaryorvaluable.Thisinformationasymmetrycandisadvantageretailconsumersintheirrelationshipwiththeirlawyeroftenattimeswhenclientsareinastateofheightenedsensitivityandpressedtomakeurgentandsignificantlifedecisions.Thelackofmarketbasedorscientificmethodsforvaluinglegalcosts,andthecostsofchangingrepresentation,canresultinretailclientsbeingchargedmorethanreasonablecostsforlegalservices,orcreateaperceptionofovercharging.Clear,conciseandtimelycostsdisclosureisagoodbusinesspracticeitminimisesthepotentialformisunderstandingsatalaterstage,andthepossibilityofcomplaintsagainstlawyerswhereaclientfeelsheorshehasbeenchargedmorethanisfairandreasonable.Earlydiscussionsaboutcostshelptoeducateclientsabouthowthelegalprocessworks,andcanassistinfocusingthemonthedesiredoutcomeandthewaythemattershouldbeprogressedtoachieveit.Thisfacilitatesgreatercontrolbyclientsovertheirownlegalmattersandcanresultingreaterclarityaboutthesharedgoalsoftheclientandlawyer.Costsdisclosurealsobenefitsthelegalprofessionasawhole.Althoughcomplaintsaboutcostsdisclosureandoverchargingaremadeagainstasmallproportionoftheprofession,costscomplaintscontinuetobeaprimarygroundofcomplaintinallStatesandTerritories.Costscomplaintscanhaveadisproportionatelynegativeimpactontheprofessionsreputation,obscuringitspositivecontributiontothecommunity.Therefore,byreducingthepotentialfordisagreementsaboutlegalcosts,mandatorydisclosureservestheinterestsofthebroaderprofessionbyhelpingtomaintainpublicconfidenceinit.Regulatoryoversightoflegalcostscanalsobejustifiedbecauselawyersenjoyamonopolyontheprovisionofmostlegalservices.Independentreviewoflegalcoststhereforeisareasonablecountermeasuretothemaintenanceofrestrictionsinmarketcompetitionwithinthissector.Mandatorycostsdisclosurewasintroducedinthe1990stooffsetthederegulationoflegalfees,1Therearealsoasmallgroupofhighnetworthindividualswhodonotfallwithinthestatutorydefinitionofsophisticatedclient,butwhoareexperiencedcommercialoperatorsandclientswhoprimarilyaccessthejusticesystemthroughlegalaidandcommunitylegalcentres.2whichprovidedmorefreedom,flexibilityandcompetitioninfeechargingforlegalpractitionersthantheprevioussystemofscalesofcosts.2However,whilebroadpublicinterestsrequirethatalllegalpractitionersshouldbesubjecttoageneralobligationtochargeonlyfairandreasonablelegalcosts,notallclientsrequirethesamelevelofconsumerprotection.TheTaskforceproposestomaintaintheexistingapproachthatallowssophisticatedclientstocontractoutofthemandatorycostsdisclosureandassessmentregimes.SCAGproposalsInApril2009,theStandingCommitteeofAttorneysGeneralnotedanumberofNSWproposalstoconstrainoverchargingandexploitationofvulnerablelegalservicesconsumers,andaskedajointworkingpartytomakerecommendationsastotheiradoptioninthenationalmodellaw.Theproposalswereasfollows.StrengtheningtheexistingprovisionthatawrittendisclosuretoaclientmaybeinalanguageotherthanEnglishiftheclientismorefamiliarwiththatlanguageRequiringlawpracticestoprovideperiodic,itemisedbillstoclientsinpersonalinjurymattersProhibitinglawpracticesfromseekingclientsauthoritiestodeductlegalcostsfromasettlementamountwithouthavingfirstinformedtheclientofthesettlementamountandissuedtheclientwithabillwhichmustbeitemisedinpersonalinjurymattersProvidingthatabillorcoveringlettermustbesignedbyaprincipalofalawpracticeratherthanalegalpractitionerorotherpersonandProhibitinglawpracticesfromchargingexcessivecostsinalegalmatter,andprovidingafinancialpenaltyforbreachofthisprovisionwithoutareasonableexcuse.SCAGsubsequentlyreferredthesematterstotheTaskforceforconsiderationaspartofthisreformprocess.TheproposedlegislativeprinciplesThefollowinglegislativeprinciplesareproposedforthecostsregime.ThesewouldbeincludedintheNationalLaw,andwouldbecomplementedbyNationalRules.ObjectivesoftheschemeThepurposesofthisschemeareasfollowstoprovideforlawpracticestomakedisclosurestoclientsregardinglegalcoststoregulatethemakingofcostsagreementsinrespectoflegalservices,includingconditionalcostsagreementstoregulatethebillingofcostsforlegalservicestoprovideamechanismfortheassessmentoflegalcostsandthesettingasideofcertaincostsagreements.CostsdisclosureBefore,orassoonaspracticableafter,givinginstructionstoactclientsshallreceivesufficientwritteninformationabouttheestimatedcostsoftheirmatter,andthemethodforcalculatingthatestimate,toreasonablyallowthemtomakeinformeddecisionsabouttheconductofthematter.Thisshallalsoincludedisclosureinrelationtocostswherealawpracticeintendstoretainanotherlawpracticeorexpertonbehalfoftheclient.2ALambandJLittrich,LawyersinAustralia2007,215.3Anysignificantchangetoamatterpreviouslydisclosedmustbenotifiedtotheclientassoonasreasonablypossibleafterthelawpracticebecomesawareofthechange.Costsdisclosureshouldbepresentedinaconcise,clearandaccessibleformat.Legalpractitionersshouldtakereasonablestepstoensurethatclientsunderstandtheinformationdisclosed.Inaddition,consumersfromculturallyandlinguisticallydiversebackgroundsshouldnotbedisadvantagedascomparedtopeopleforwhomEnglishistheirfirstlanguage.Clientsmustbeinformedabouttheirrighttonegotiateacostsagreementandtochallengelegalcosts.Costsagreementsareenforceableasacontractbetweenthepartiesandanyassessmentwillbyreferencetothecostsagreementifitisavalidagreementcomplyingwiththelegislation.Ifalawpracticefailstodiscloseanythingrequiredbythelegislation,theclientwillnotberequiredtopaylegalcostsuntiltheyhavebeenassessed.Thelawpracticemustnotcommenceormaintainproceedingstorecoverfeesuntilaftertheassessment.Sophisticatedclientsmaycontractoutofthemandatorycostsdisclosureandassessmentregimes.ReasonablenessLegalpractitionersandlawpracticesmayonlychargefairandreasonablecosts.Acostsagreementisprimafacieevidenceofwhatarefairandreasonablecosts.Legalcostsshouldbeproportionatetothecomplexityorimportanceoftheissuesandamountindispute.Lawpracticesandtheirclientsmayagreetoavarietyofmethodsforcalculatinglegalcosts.Thecourtsandtribunalsmaysetasidecostsagreements,inwholeorinpart,whicharenotfairorreasonable.Legalpractitionersandlawpracticesmustmakereasonableendeavourstoactpromptlyandtominimisedelayinthelegalprocessandmustnototherwiseworkinawaythatunnecessarilyincreasecostsinamatter.BillingAlawpracticemaynotseektorecoveritsfeesunlessithasprovidedaproperlypreparedbilltotheclient.Alawpracticemaynotchargeforthepreparationofbillsandclientsmayrequestanitemisedbillatnoadditionalcost.Billsmustincludeanoticeaboutaclientsrighttochallengelegalcostsortohaveacostsagreementsetaside.4LiabilityofprincipalsforoverchargingPrincipalsoflawpracticesareresponsibleforthereasonablenessofbillsrenderedtoclients,andwillbepersonallyliableintheeventofthechargingofexcessivelegalcostsinmattersinwhichtheyhaveactedorwhichtheyhavesupervised.Alawpracticemaybeliableforthechargingofexcessivelegalcostsbyoneofitsprincipalsoroneofitsemployees.CostassessmentCostsassessmentsmustbeconductedinaccordancewithNationalRules.Determinationsofcostsassessorsareadmissibleindisciplinaryproceedingsasevidenceastothereasonablenessoflegalcosts.RegulatoryGuidelinesTheBoardshallissueNationalRulesdetailingactionsthatpractitionersarerequiredtotaketocomplywiththeselegislativeprinciples,andtogiveeffecttotheselegislativeprinciples.AbreachoftheNationalRuleswillbeconductcapableofconstitutingunsatisfactoryprofessionalconductorprofessionalmisconduct.Inthecaseoflawpractices,abreachwithoutreasonableexcusemayconstituteanoffence.DiscussionSeveraloftheseproposedlegislativeprinciplesarenotcurrentlyincludedintheModelBill.Thefollowingprovidesabriefdiscussionofthepolicyargumentsfortheirinclusioninanewcostsregime.LevelofdetailindisclosureAcriticismofthemandatorydisclosureregimeisthelackofguidanceaboutthelevelofdetailrequiredindisclosuredocuments.Itisarguedthatpractitionersareeitherlegallyrequiredto,orregularlyerronthesideof,cautionandprovidevoluminousdetailincostsdisclosuredocumentsforfearoffailingtomeettheirprofessionalobligations.Overwhelminglydetaileddisclosuredoesnotservetheinterestsofeitherpractitionerorclientandwasnotintendedwhentheregimewasintroduced.Theaimofcostsdisclosureistoprovidethepartieswithastartingpointfromwhichtobeginadialogueaboutcosts.Writtendisclosureshouldbeahighlevelsummarytowhichtheclientcanreferwhenmakingdecisionsduringthecourseofalegalmatteritisnotexpectedtobeadetaileddocumentprovidingsubstantivelegaladviceonlegalrightsandoptionsalthoughitshouldcomplementthatadvicewhenlaterprovided.Itshouldbemadeclearthatpractitionersareonlyrequiredtotakereasonablestepsinprovidingmandatorydisclosure.DisclosureinlanguagesotherthanEnglishTheModelBillcurrentlyprovidesthatwrittendisclosurestoaclientmaybeinlanguagesotherthanEnglishifaclientismorefamiliarwiththatlanguage.Amorepositiveobligationcouldimposedtoensurethatclientsfromculturallyandlinguisticallydiversebackgroundsunderstandtheinformationbeingdisclosed.Accordingly,inadditiontothisprovisionaboutwrittendisclosures,therecouldbeanadditionalrequirementthatalegalpractitionerbereasonablysatisfiedthattheclientunderstandsthecostsdisclosuregiven.Inpractice,thiswouldmeanthatwherenecessaryalegalpractitioneror,wherethisisnotpracticable,theclientwouldneedtoobtainatranslatortoexplainthecostsdisclosuretotheclient.5TheTaskforcedoesnotconsiderthisproposaltobeundulyonerousgiventhatthelegalpractitionerwouldinanycaseberequiredtoensurethatheorsheisabletocommunicateeffectivelywithaclientinordertoobtainongoinginstructionsinamatter.ProportionalityinassessingreasonablenessofcostsProportionalityoflegalcostsisalreadyenshrinedincertainareas.Forexample,section60oftheCivilProcedureAct2005NSWprovidesthatinanyproceedings,thepracticeandprocedureofthecourtshouldbeimplementedwiththeobjectofresolvingtheissuesbetweenthepartiesinsuchawaythatthecosttothepartiesisproportionatetotheimportanceandcomplexityofthesubjectmatterindispute.InSevenNetworkLtdvNewsLtd2007FCA1062,JusticeSackvillecommentedadverselyonthedisproportionateamountofthelegalfeesrelativetotheamountultimatelyindispute.3HisHonourhassubsequentlycommentedthatthereisanundeniablepublicinterestinthecourtsactivelyapplyingtheprincipleofproportionalitytoallformsoflitigation,whetherthestakesareveryhighorcomparativelylow.Ifthisisnotdone,judgescanhardlybesurprisedifthecivilcourtsarelargelyseenastheexclusivedomainofthewealthyandpowerful.4TheVictorianLawReformCommissiondiscussedtheissueofproportionalityinitsreport,CivilJusticeReview2008.TheCommissionnotedcertaindifficultiesinapplyingtheprincipleofproportionalitytolegalcosts.However,itrecommendedthatnewprovisionsshouldbeenactedinrespectofcertainmatters,includingaparamountdutyonparties,legalpractitionersandlawpracticesinvolvedincivilproceedingstothecourttofurthertheadministrationofjusticeandthiswouldincludeadutytousereasonableendeavourstoensurethatthelegalandothercostsincurredinconnectionwiththeproceedingsareminimisedandproportionatetothecomplexityorimportanceoftheissuesandtheamountindispute.5LiabilityofprincipalsforoverchargingUndertheModelBill,billsmustbesignedonbehalfofthelawpracticebyalegalpractitionerorotheremployee,andanythingdonebyalegalpractitioneronbehalfofthelawpracticeisdeemedtohavebeendonebythelawpractice.TheModelBillalsodeemsanybreachoftheActbyalawpracticetohavealsobeencommittedbyaprincipalunlessheorsheestablishesthatthepracticecontravenedtheprovisionwithouttheactual,imputedorconstructiveknowledgeoftheprincipalortheprincipalwasnotinapositiontoinfluencetheconductofthelawpracticeinrelationtoitsbreachoftheprovisionortheprincipal,ifinthatposition,usedallduediligencetopreventthebreachbythepractice.TheModelBillalsoprovidesthatthechargingofexcessivelegalcostsinconnectionwiththepracticeoflawiscapableofbeingunsatisfactoryprofessionalconductorprofessionalmisconduct.However,thecommonlawstandardculpabilityforafindingofprofessionalmisconductappearstorequirethatthelegalpractitionerbepersonallyimplicatedintheconductthatisthesubjectofthecomplaint.63SevenNetworkLtdvNewsLtd2007FCA1062,810.4RSackville,TheC7CaseAChronicleofaDeathForetold,PaperpresentedtoNewZealandBarAssociationInternationalConference,1516August2008.5VictorianLawReformCommission,CivilJusticeReviewReport2008,Rec16.3.6SeethediscussioninNikolaidisvLegalServicesCommissioner2007NSWCA130.6Inpractice,difficultiescouldariseinidentifyingaparticularlegalpractitioneragainstwhomtobringanydisciplinaryproceedingswherealawpracticehasengagedinexcessiveovercharging.Forexample,inmanylegalpracticesthepreparationandprovisionofbillsmaybebrokenintomultiplesubtasksundertakenbydifferentpeople,ofwhomsomemaybelegalpractitionersandsomemaynot.Itispossiblethatnoonelegalpractitionercouldbeidentifiedwhohasthenecessarylevelofpersonalculpabilityforafindingofprofessionalmisconductforchargingexcessivelegalcostsinconnectionwiththepracticeoflaw.Dependingonthecircumstances,itmightbepossibletobringdisciplinaryproceedingsforprofessionalmisconductonothergrounds,suchaswherealegalpractitionerfailstosupervisehisorherstaffinpreparingorsigningabill.However,anotherapproachwouldbetorequireprincipalsoflawpracticestotakeresponsibilityforthecontentofbillssenttoclients,includingthereasonablenessofthecostsinthem.TheTaskforceconsidersthisanappropriateoption,andproposesthattheNationalLawincludeprinciplestothiseffectasoutlinedabove,whichcouldbecomplementedbyNationalRulesasdiscussedbelow.RequirementtoavoiddelayAnumberofreportsoncivillawreformshaveraisedconcernsaboutoverservicinganditsimpactontheoverallcostoflitigation.Oneproposalistheincreaseduseofcappedorfixedcostsorders7bycourts,butoverservicingisalsopotentiallyadisciplinarymatter.Anobligationonpractitionerstoexpeditethelegalprocesswouldbeconsistentwithpractitionersbroaderdutiestothecourtstoensurethattheadministrationofjusticeistimelyandefficientandthatcostsarereasonable.Itwouldalsoassistpractitionerstoresistrequestsfromclientsforunnecessaryorsurplusservices.ThiskindofobligationwasrecentlyrecommendedbytheVictorianLawReformCommission,whichrecommendedadutyonpartiestocivilproceedings,theirlegalpractitionersandlawpracticestousereasonableendeavourstoactpromptlyandtominimisedelay.8NationalRulesforlegalcostsUnderthenewregulatoryframework,theNationalLegalServicesBoardwillberesponsiblefordevelopinguniformNationalRulesie,nationalbindingrulesinrelationtovariousareasoflegalprofessionregulation.TheTaskforceproposesthattheNationalRulesdealwiththefollowingmatters,andwouldbeinterestedintheviewsoftheConsultativeGroupandotherstakeholdersinrelationtotheproposals.Generally,theproposalsarebasedontherelevantprovisionsoftheModelBill,andothermeasuresthathavebeenidentifiedtoaddressconcernswithexistingregulation.UndertheModelBill,disclosurelargelyonlyappliestoretailclientseg,individuals,familiesandsmallbusinessesassophisticatedclientsareexcludedfromthecostsdisclosureregime.Therefore,thefollowingsuggestionsarebasedprimarilyonaddressingtheneedsofretailclients.7Orderswhichlimitthetotalamountofcostsrecoverableinthematterbyonepartyagainstanothertoaspecifiedcappedamount.Alternatively,courtsmightbegiventhepowertofixcostsataparticularrateforspecifiedpiecesofworkundertakenintheproceedingsegfilingfurtherandbetterparticulars.8VictorianLawReformCommission,CivilJusticeReviewReport2008,Rec16.3.7CostsdisclosureTheNationalRulesshouldincludethefollowingmatters,whicharelargelybasedontheexistingModelBillprovisions.MandatorydisclosureWrittendisclosuremustbemadeinwritingbefore,orassoonaspracticableafter,thelawpracticeisretainedinthematter.Disclosuremustbemadetotheclientandanyassociatedthirdpartypayerfortheclienttotheextentrelevant.Thereshouldbeexemptionsfromthemandatorydisclosurerequirementswherethetotallegalcostsinthematterarenotlikelytoexceedacertainamount9theclientisasophisticatedclientandhasagreedinwritingtowaivetherighttodisclosureortheclientisoneofacertainclassofclientforwhomtheBoardconsidersonreasonablegroundstobeasophisticatedclientorforwhommandatorydisclosureisotherwiseunnecessary.FormofdisclosureWrittendisclosurestoaclientmustbeexpressedinclearplainlanguagemaybeinalanguageotherthanEnglishiftheclientismorefamiliarwiththatlanguageandifthelawpracticeisawarethattheclientisunabletoread,thelawpracticemustarrangefortherequiredinformationtobeconveyedorallytotheclientinadditiontoprovidingthewrittendisclosure.NatureofdisclosureThemandatorydisclosureshouldincludeThebasisonwhichlegalcostswillbecalculated,includingthethingstobebilledforegphotocopyingetcTheclientsrightsinrelationtocosts,includingtherighttonegotiatethebasisofcostsreceiveperiodicbillsfromthelawpracticerequestanitemisedbillandbenotifiedofanysubstantialchangetothematterspreviouslydisclosedAnestimateofthetotallegalcostsifreasonablypracticable,orelsearangeofestimatesofthetotallegalcostsandanexplanationofthemajorvariablesinthemTherateofinterestifanythatthelawpracticechargesonoverduelegalcostsTheclientsrighttomakereasonablerequestsforprogressreportswhichmayincludeawrittenreportofthelegalcostsincurredtodateorsincethelastbill,atnocosttotheclientTheavenuesfordisputinglegalcosts,theprocessforfollowingthem,andanytimelimitsthatapplytoanysuchactionIfalawpracticeintendstoretainanotherlawpractice,abarristeroranexpertonbehalfofaclient,itmustdisclosethatpracticeorpersonscostsandbillingarrangements10Iftherewillbeanupliftfee,thereshouldbedisclosureofthelawpracticeslegalcoststheupliftfeeorthebasisofcalculationoftheupliftfeeandthereasonswhytheupliftfeeiswarranted.9Currently,NSWandVictoriarequirecostsdisclosureinmatterswherelegalcostsarelikelytoexceed750,whileotherjurisdictionshaveadopteda1,500threshold.TheBoardshouldspecifytheappropriatemonetarythresholdinaNationalRule.10Thisproposalextendsthecurrentdisclosurefromlawpractices,toincludeanexpertretainedonbehalfoftheclient.TheNSWLegalFeesReviewPanelrecommendedthatwhereapractitionerproposestoretainathirdpartyexpert,otherthananotherlegalpractitionerandthepractitionerexpectsthatthatexpertsfeeswillexceed1,000,thepractitionershouldberequiredtoobtainanestimateoftheexpertsfeesprovidethatestimatetotheclientandobtaintheclientsconsentpriortoretainingtheexpert.However,anexceptionshouldbeprovidedforurgentsituationsNSWLegalFeesReviewPanel,ReportLegalCostsinNSW2005.
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