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When the Solicitor-Barrister relationship turns sour

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barrister

The distinction between solicitors and barristers is a traditional feature of English legal systems, including Australia’s. The main difference between the two today is that barristers specialise in court advocacy and are normally instructed by solicitors, who deal with clients directly, operate trust accounts and also do non-court work such as writing correspondence, conveyancing, preparing legal documents and handling estates.
Continue reading “When the Solicitor-Barrister relationship turns sour”

Sterling Law unfazed by Coronavirus

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Corona Bottles

Despite the Coronavirus wreaking havoc, we are pleased to inform you that it is still business as usual for us. Our office remains open Monday-Friday each week, but we are willing to see people via Skype or some other form of videoconferencing if preferred. While some other law firms are afraid or panic, we remain optimistic, and aim to minimise the impact of the current worldwide pandemic on our ability to help you. Continue reading “Sterling Law unfazed by Coronavirus”

The law of lawyers bills in Queensland

Posted on Categories civil litigation, Legal profession, litigation, Professional feesTags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , 3 Comments on The law of lawyers bills in Queensland

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Introduction

For a very long time in Commonwealth legal systems, the legal profession has been regulated for the benefit of clients of lawyers and the public at large. Among other things, there has been a recognised public interest in protecting those liable to pay legal fees from overcharging by lawyers. One of those protections is and has been the legal requirement for a bill to be provided so that the client can seek advice on the fees and charges.

As a result, one of the many modern obligations that lawyers in English legal systems have to comply with in the course of legal practice is to provide clients and any other persons liable for their fees with proper bills before such persons can be liable for or sued for such fees. Continue reading “The law of lawyers bills in Queensland”

Why Nicola Gobbo informed against her own clients

Posted on Categories Criminal law, Legal professionTags , , , , 2 Comments on Why Nicola Gobbo informed against her own clients

Gobbo

This blog has previously reported on former barrister Nicola Gobbo  aka “Lawyer X”, who was also a police informant, often informing on her own clients and helping the police secure convictions against them.

During the Royal Commission centred around her antics, the topic moved to her motives.

Why did she do it?

Why did she betray her own clients, many of whom are extremely dangerous, egregiously breach legal ethics and throw the legal profession in Victoria into disrepute? Continue reading “Why Nicola Gobbo informed against her own clients”

Sterling Law sets leading precedent on itemised bills

Posted on Categories civil litigation, Legal profession, litigation, Professional feesTags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , 2 Comments on Sterling Law sets leading precedent on itemised bills

With its latest big win, Sterling Law is establishing its place as an elite Queensland litigation firm, and a force to be reckoned with.

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The facts

When Joanne Murdock deliberately remained uncontactable to her solicitors for an extended period of time, she received a bill from them for all the work they had done for her.

The bill set out the charges item by item, particularising the date, the time spent and the person who performed the work, but for most items only provided very concise descriptions of the work performed. Examples later complained of included “attendance with you”, and “telephone attendance with you”. Continue reading “Sterling Law sets leading precedent on itemised bills”

Former Magistrate Bill Randall struck off for child sex abuse

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William ‘Uncle Bill’ Randall has been struck off as a lawyer following his convictions for numerous child sex offences.

Bill Randall4
The facts

William John Randall was admitted as a solicitor of the Supreme Court of Queensland on 9 June 1981. He never practised as a solicitor, and never held a practising certificate. He was however appointed a Magistrate in 1985 and served for a long time in the small claims tribunal until his retirement in 2016.

On 21 November 2017 he was convicted by a jury of a range of serious sexual offences committed against a child. The child was just five when the abuse started in 1990 at Randall’s home at Wynnum, on Brisbane’s bayside. It continued for almost 12 years, and the victim was 30 before he finally gathered the courage to tell police. Randall was initially sentenced to 9 years imprisonment but on appeal this was increased to 11 years imprisonment. He continued to deny his offending throughout and never showed any remorse. Continue reading “Former Magistrate Bill Randall struck off for child sex abuse”

Why do you need a lawyer?

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barrister

Why do you need a lawyer? On some level this is a basic and obvious question, but there is a lot more to the answer than first meets the eye. Although it seems like a pretty obvious question, there are in fact a number of advantages of having a lawyer. Continue reading “Why do you need a lawyer?”

Law firm partner sued for sexual harassment

Posted on Categories Industrial relations, Legal profession, litigation, Professional disciplineTags , , 1 Comment on Law firm partner sued for sexual harassment

Single Mum feared no job

The legal profession gets rocked by a #metoo claim.

The partner of the firm has at a minimum acted unprofessionally in this case and the implications for his career could be serious.

 

Lawyer X confirmed to be Nicola Gobbo

Posted on Categories Criminal law, Legal professionTags , , , , , 1 Comment on Lawyer X confirmed to be Nicola Gobbo

Gobbo

Nicola Gobbo, the barrister at the centre of the scandal that sparked the Victorian Royal Commission into the Management of Police Informants has been publicly identified, after orders made to conceal her identity were lifted today.

Ms Gobbo’s history:

“A former legal counsel to some of Australia’s most notorious criminals, Ms Gobbo is understood to have helped Victoria Police in at least 386 cases involving Melbourne’s underworld during her time acting as a paid police informant, following her initial recruitment in 1995.

The information she provided helped lead to the arrest and conviction of many, including some of her clients such as gangland boss Tony Mokbel, who in 2012 was sentenced to 30 years’ for his head role in the infamous multimillion-dollar drug syndicate known as ‘The Company’.

Following the December announcement that there would be a Royal Commission into the Management of Police Informants, largely centred around a female barrister who the public now knows to be Ms Gobbo, Victoria’s Director of Public Prosecutions, Kerri Judd QC, wrote to 20 criminals — including Mokbel — to tell them their convictions may have been affected as a result of Ms Gobbo’s role in acting as a police informant. 

“EF [the barrister’s pseudonym], while purporting to act as counsel for the convicted persons, provided information to Victoria Police that had the potential to undermine the convicted persons’ defences to criminal charges of which they were later convicted”, the December High Court judgment noted.

“EF’s actions in purporting to act as counsel for the Convicted Persons while covertly informing against them were fundamental and appalling breaches of EF’s obligations as counsel to her clients and of EF’s duties to the court.

“Likewise, Victoria Police were guilty of reprehensible conduct in knowingly encouraging EF to do as she did and were involved in sanctioning atrocious breaches of the sworn duty of every police officer to discharge all duties imposed on them faithfully and according to law without favour or affection, malice or ill-will.

“As a result, the prosecution of each convicted person was corrupted in a manner which debased fundamental premises of the criminal justice system.”

In first announcing the royal commission, the Andrews government issued a statement, saying that the integrity of the criminal justice system is paramount, and all people charged with crimes are entitled to a fair trial, no matter who they are.

The same statement acknowledged that while Victoria Police assured the state government that “its practices have changed since the barrister’s recruitment as an informant”, the Victorian community “has a right to further independent assurance that these past practices have been stamped out, as well as an understanding of what happened in this instance”.

“The royal commission will provide that assurance,” the state government said.”

Why lawyers are so expensive

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Most complaints about lawyers concern how high their legal fees are. The professional fees charged by lawyers are notorious. When many clients earn an average of $20-40 per hour, it can seem unfair that your lawyers charge you hundreds of dollars per hour. However, as this article will demonstrate, there are reasons why legal fees are so high.

Operating costs

The main reason legal fees are so high is because it costs a lot of money to lawfully run and operate a law firm. Law firms incur all of the costs normally associated with operating an office (rent, wages, photocopy leases, furniture, power, stationary, paper, ink, tax etc). Inner city law firms pay massive amounts of rent and of course this cost gets passed onto you. Additionally, there are extra costs that law firms have to pay, mainly because the legal profession is so highly regulated.

In addition to normal business costs, lawyers also incur the following costs:

Professional indemnity insurance – this is liability insurance that all law practices are required to have. The costs of this depends on the size of the practice, but it is invariably expensive. This insurance is ultimately to the clients’ benefit, as it ensures that in cases where lawyers make mistakes, clients can be compensated for this.

Practicing certificate fees – lawyers also must pay thousands of dollars every year to the Law Society in order to renew their practicing certificates. The cost of a practicing certificate depends on the type of certificate which is granted. Included in the cost of a practicing certificate is a fidelity fund contribution fee of several hundred dollars in order to reimburse clients who are defrauded of money by a small number of unscrupulous members of the profession.

Continuing Professional Development – every year, lawyers are required to complete 10 points CPD as part of their continuing legal education. This typically costs thousands of dollars per practitioner as the seminars/courses that must be attended or undertaken are rather dear. Lawyers can be severely disciplined for not complying with the above requirements. Because a solicitor’s time is worth a lot of money, the monies spent on CPD are arguably small compared to the time expended on CPD which could be used on chargeable activities.

Trust account expenses – most firms hold at least one trust account, which is a bank account where monies which do not belong to the firm are deposited. Examples of trust monies include funds used for paying house deposits or outlays, and monies paid upfront by clients or third party payers on account of the firm’s professional fees. Firms have to pay for annual external audits of their trust accounts, which usually cost a minimum of $1,500.  Firms also have to deposit 2/3 of the lowest balance held in their general trust account of the previous year into a separate account. In addition, firms can be audited by the Queensland Law Society, with the costs of such audit being passed onto them.  And of course, banks impose monthly account keeping and other fees on solicitors’ trust accounts.  Finally, the costs of keeping and maintaining records, including trust accounting software and the time spent by members of the firm also add up.

As a result, the financial costs of practicing law are enormous. There are however other reasons why legal fees are high.

Demanding occupation

Being a lawyer is one of the most demanding occupations. Lawyers have to negotiate competing demands placed on them by their clients, the courts, their employers, disciplinary bodies and their families. Some clients are difficult or have unrealistic expectations, and this ensures that they walk away unhappy with their lawyer, even when their lawyer has done an OK job.

The law is a competitive, adversarial and aggressive environment. Lawyers typically are required to work long hours, including sometimes on weekends. The consequences of mistakes and failures can be severe, including embarrassment, loss of reputation, being sued and even being disciplined.

As a result of these pressures, lawyers are one of the occupations whose members most prone to suffering depression.

For these reasons it is unsurprising that lawyers expect to be adequately compensated for the work they do.

Becoming a lawyer

The process of becoming a lawyer is a long and expensive one. The reality is that lawyers become qualified and eligible for practice at enormous personal and financial cost.

Lawyers have typically gone to university for many years in order to obtain a law degree and have then undertaken a diploma in legal practice in order to become a solicitor, or undergone training and mentoring to become a barrister. Before being able to practice law, they must be admitted to the legal profession. This is an expensive and time-consuming process which involves paying a large fee to the Legal Admissions Board, and filing an application and affidavit in the Supreme Court.

Even when they are admitted to the profession and commence legal practice, it takes years before a lawyer becomes sufficiently experienced and knowledgeable to practice without any supervision.

Conclusion

Put simply, lawyers are so expensive because the financial and other costs of practicing law are enormous. Many of these costs are due to the onerous regulation of the profession. The costs of legal practice inevitably must be passed onto the legal consumer, ie the client.

The good news is that clients can minimise their legal fees, as this article explains.

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