General Terms of Engagement

1. Introduction

Legal practice in New South Wales is regulated by the Legal Profession Act 2004 (the "Act"). The Act requires solicitors to provide certain information to their clients in relation to, among other things, how fees are charged, billed and reviewed and other information. Our internal quality procedures also require that our terms of engagement be clearly communicated to our clients.

2. Engaging us

2.1. If you engage us or wish to do so, we will send you a letter of engagement setting out the scope of the work we will do for you, the people who will be involved, the reports we will provide to you and how we will calculate and bill our fees. We will usually send the letter before we commence the work; but, if we need to start work urgently, we will send the letter as soon as practicable.

2.2. The letter of engagement and these General Terms of Engagement will constitute our costs agreement with you. The letter of engagement will override these General Terms of Engagement to the extent that they are inconsistent with the letter.

2.3. If anything in our costs agreement is inconsistent with or does not comply with the Act, it will be excluded, varied or read down to be consistent with and comply with the Act.

3. Acceptance of terms

You may accept our costs agreement in writing or orally. If you instruct us to undertake work on your behalf it will be on the basis that our costs agreement has been accepted by you.

4. Conduct of the matter and responsibility

4.1. Our letter of engagement will nominate a partner who will be primarily responsible for your matter.

4.2. If you have a complaint, you should contact that partner or our Managing Partner. Any complaint will be discussed with you and with the person involved. We will endeavour to resolve the complaint fairly and sympathetically.

5. Fees

5.1. Depending on the nature of your matter our professional fees will be calculated on a fixed fee, event-cost or time-cost basis, or a combination of them. The method applicable to a particular matter will be set out in the letter of engagement for the matter. If no method is specified in the letter, our professional fees will be calculated on a time-cost basis.

5.2. If our professional fees on a matter are to be calculated on a time-cost basis:

(a) the hourly rates for work to be performed by our lawyers and paralegals will be those set out in the letter of engagement for the matter;

(b) our time will be charged in units of six minutes, rounded up to the next full six minutes if the time spent is not a multiple of six minutes (for example,  if 21 minutes is spent it will be rounded up to 24 minutes or four units); and

(c) no charge will be made for secretarial or administration staff except in circumstances where, due to the requirements of the matter, the staff are required to work outside normal office hours.


6. Disbursements

6.1. In addition to our fees, our invoices will include disbursements paid by us. These include photocopying charges, telephone and facsimile transmission charges, travel fares and expenses, stamp duty and fees paid to third parties such as registration fees, conveyancing enquiry fees, land title and company search fees, court fees and the fees of others engaged by us on your behalf, such as couriers, barristers and expert witnesses. You may be asked to approve the terms of engagement of any third party whom we engage on your behalf. 

6.2. Most disbursements are charged at their cost to us, but we shall charge a service charge in addition to the charge to us for some internal disbursements such as photocopying, facsimile transmissions and STD and IDD telephone calls. If you require details of our current disbursement rates, please contact us.

6.3. You agree to pay or reimburse the following disbursements invoiced in each matter:

(a) those incurred with your prior authority; and

(b) those incurred without your prior authority where:

(i) the amount of the disbursement is not significant having regard to the nature of the matter; or

(ii) it was not reasonably practicable for us to seek your authority and we considered it desirable to incur the disbursement for the proper conduct of the matter.

6.4. We may ask you for funds in advance for our professional fees or for disbursements that we will be required to incur on your behalf.

6.5. Our invoices itemise all disbursements.

7. GST

Our invoices will be "Tax Invoices" for the purposes of any applicable law relating to Goods and Services Tax and the amount for payment will include any such tax which is payable.

8. Billing procedures

8.1. You are entitled to receive a bill of costs for any work that we do for you.

8.2. We will usually send you a bill of costs for our work and disbursements monthly, but timing of our bills can be changed by agreement. In some matters we may agree to send you our bill of costs only on completion of our work. Please let us know if you have any particular billing preferences.

8.3. Each bill of costs will contain details of our professional fees, expenses and disbursements (including GST). If you want a breakdown of the professional fees you can request it within 30 days of receiving the bill.

8.4. Unless other payment terms are agreed, each bill is payable within 30 days of you receiving it.

9. Interest on our unpaid costs

9.1. If our bill is not paid in full by the due date, we may charge you interest on the unpaid amount at the rate prescribed by the regulations under the Act. Please let us know if you wish to have details of the current rate of interest prescribed by the regulations.

9.2. If we charge interest on our costs, any subsequent payment made by you will be credited first to any unpaid interest that has accrued on our unpaid costs by the date of the payment and then any balance left over will be credited towards payment of our unpaid costs.

10. Disputing our costs

10.1. If you dispute our costs you should first contact the partner responsible for your matter or, if you prefer, our Managing Partner. We will attempt to answer your questions and resolve any dispute amicably.

10.2. If we cannot resolve a dispute you may:

(a) apply to the Legal Services Commissioner, the Supreme Court costs assessment scheme or the Law Society to have the dispute resolved by mediation;

(b) apply to have our bill of costs assessed under Division 11, Part 3.2 of the Act; or

(c) apply to have our costs agreement set aside on the basis that it is not fair and reasonable under section 328 of the Act.


11. Trust moneys

Before we commence our work and from time to time during our work, we may ask you to provide funds to us in advance to pay our costs and/or disbursements. We shall deposit such funds to your credit in our trust account. If we hold such funds in our trust account, these General Terms of Engagement authorise us to transfer the funds in payment of billed fees and disbursements in accordance with the Act.

12. Payment

You may pay us by:

  • BPAY or EFT
  • cash, cheque or money order
  • credit card


(a) Cash, cheque or money order

We accept cash, cheque or money orders for all of our professional fees, disbursements and other charges. Cash payments may only be made in person at our office, and must be in Australian dollars. Cheque or money order payments may be made in person or by post. We accept both personal and bank cheques if marked "not negotiable". Cheques should be made out in Australian dollars and originate from an Australian bank. Personal cheques are subject to five days clearance but once cleared will be treated as paid on the day of receipt. Dishonoured cheques do not constitute payment.

(b) Credit Card

We accept payment by Visa or Mastercard credit card for our professional fees, disbursements and other charges.

A lower limit of $10 and an upper limit of $100,000 apply for all credit card transactions. Credit card payments may be made in person at our office, by post or by fax to (02) 9293 5311. Please contact us for a credit card payment form. We cannot accept credit card payments by phone or for third party disbursements.

(c) BPAY or Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT)

You may pay for all of our professional services and other charges through the BPAY electronic payment system or by making an Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) from your bank account into our bank account. The payment details are set out in our invoices or can be obtained by calling us. BPAY and EFT payments must be initiated from your financial institution.


13. Substantial changes to disclosure

We will inform you as soon as is reasonably practicable, of any substantial changes to anything contained in this document.

14. Engagement of another law practice

It may be necessary for us to engage, on your behalf, the services of another law practice to provide specialist advice or services, including advocacy services, or to act as our agent. We will consult you as to the terms of that law practice’s engagement but you may be asked to enter into a costs agreement directly with that law practice. The law practice engaged by us will disclose costs in a similar manner and we will disclose those costs to you.

15. Privacy protection

As part of providing legal services to you we may collect personal information about you from you and other sources. We handle and use this personal information in accordance with our obligations under the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth) and our privacy policy available at http://www.hicksons.com.au/privacy.html.

Except if required by law, we do not use your personal information for any purpose other than directly in relation to the provision of legal services to you and the provision of legal updates and invitations to events and seminars that we believe may be of interest to you. 

You consent and authorise for us to disclose your personal information to third parties, including but not limited to courts, parties to litigation, valuers, experts and barristers where it is directly in connection with our provision of legal services to you.

16. Ending our agreement

16.1. You may end our agreement at any time by giving us written notice.

16.2. We may end our agreement if:

(a) you fail to pay our bills;

(b) you fail to provide us with adequate instructions within a reasonable time;

(c) you give instructions that are deliberately false or intentionally misleading;

(d) you fail to accept an offer of settlement that we think is reasonable;

(e) you fail to accept or act on advice that we give you;

(f) you engage another law practice to act for you on the same matter without our consent;

(g) we, on reasonable grounds, believe that we have a conflict of interest;

(h) you indicate to us that we have lost your confidence; or

(i) there is any other good reason.

If we decide to end our agreement, we will give you at least 14 days written notice setting out our reasons.

16.3. If you or we end our agreement, you will be required to pay our professional fees and charges for work done, and for expenses and disbursements incurred, up to the date that the agreement comes to an end. For lump sum fee matters, you must pay that part of our lump sum fee that we reasonably estimate has been incurred in respect of legal services provided to you up to the date that the agreement comes to an end, plus charges, expenses and disbursements.

17. Retention of files

17.1. We reserve the right to keep your files and documents if there is any money owing to us for fees or disbursements, even if this agreement has been terminated by us, regardless of the reason for termination.

17.2. These General Terms of Engagement authorise us to destroy your files in a matter after a period of seven years from the date we provide you with our final invoice.

18. Applicable law

The law of New South Wales applies to legal costs regarding this matter. If this matter has a substantial connection with the law of any other State or Territory, you may wish to have the matter dealt with by the law of that State or Territory. If you do so, separate disclosure requirements may be imposed on us and we will disclose our costs in accordance with those requirements. You may, however, contract with us that the costs assessment scheme in New South Wales is applicable in the event of any dispute arising as to costs.