A bill of costs (in the context of litigation) is an account that is given by a legal practitioner to their client for services. Pursuant to section 186 of the Legal Profession Uniform Law (NSW) a bill of costs can either be in a ‘lump sum’ or ‘itemised’ form.
A lump sum bill of costs is usually given to a client at first instance and describes the legal services to which the bill relates generally and specifies a total dollar figure for the amount for legal costs.
An itemised bill is usually given to a client upon request and outlines in detail each item of work that was performed by a legal practitioner and the cost of that individual service provided. By itemising each item of work performed, it allows a client to have their legal costs assessed. Pursuant to section 187(1) of the Legal Profession Uniform Law a client can request that an itemised bill be provided to them. Importantly, a legal practitioner can not commence proceedings to recover legal costs unless a bill of costs has been provided to a client.
A notice outlining the rights of a client is required to accompany a bill of costs pursuant to section 192 of the Legal Profession Uniform Law. This written statement must outline:
- Avenues of dispute open regarding legal costs; and
- Time limits that apply to taking action to dispute legal costs.