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Judge Attacks Without the Facts

Charles Galayini | Wednesday, February 07, 2018
Judge Attacks Without the Facts

The attitude of the judiciary on the complex issue of “Fair and Reasonable Costs” has fuelled the risk for law firms having their Costs come to Dispute. Simic v Norton [2017] Fam CA 1007 was a matter heard in the Sydney Family Court in December 2017.

The matter seemed to be a very complex and emotionally charged case which involved children’s issues, property issues and child support issues. There were two firms of solicitors, three counsel including Senior Counsel and a very experienced Senior Junior Counsel, as well as an independent children’s lawyer.

Ultimately the matter settled, which is usually seen as a pleasing outcome to a Judge. This was not the case in Simic v Norton, where despite the positive outcome, his Honour Benjamin J was scathing of the Costs incurred by both legal parties. At paragraph 14 of the judgement, his Honour says when talking about the combined legal costs of the parties “these amounts are, on their face, outrageous levels of costs for ordinary people involved in family law proceedings.”

His Honour then went on to make orders referring each solicitor to the Legal Services Commission for a thorough investigation.

However, in what is reflective to the general attitude towards Costs, it became clear that his Honour could not be certain of the exact amount charged by each firm of solicitors as the costs and disbursements were not broken down. The judge’s tirade was aimed at the solicitors, but did not account costs for all participants which included solicitors, barristers, independent children’s lawyers, expert witnesses, transcript costs, court costs and no doubt other costs not so apparent in the judgment.

In a fair and robust legal system which is the cornerstone of our civil society, the cost of litigation is high. Lawyers charge out their legal costs at a rate designed to make them a profit, not to cheat their clients.
The attitude of Governments, costs assessors and clearly the judiciary is that lawyers are the cause of the high cost of litigation. The chances of a law practice being embroiled in a costly solicitor client dispute is incredibly high.

Costs Cover provides an insurance solution for firms to mitigate this risk. By purchasing Cover, firms can outsource the financial and administrative cost of a Costs Assessment, and get on with managing their clients and firm.


Costs Cover