Queensland Law Society

Client documents and liens

14. Client documents

14.1 A solicitor with designated responsibility for a client’s matter, must ensure that, upon completion or termination of the law practice’s engagement:

14.1.1 the client or former client; or

14.1.2 another person authorised by the client or former client,

is given any client documents, (or if they are electronic documents copies of those documents), as soon as reasonably possible when requested to do so by the client, unless there is an effective lien.

14.2 A solicitor or solicitor’s law practice may destroy client documents after a period of 7 years has elapsed since the completion or termination of the engagement, except where there are client instructions or legislation to the contrary.

15. Lien over essential documents

15.1 Notwithstanding Rule 14, when a solicitor claims to exercise a lien for unpaid legal costs over client documents which are essential to the client’s defence or prosecution of current proceedings:

15.1.1 if another solicitor is acting for the client, the first solicitor must surrender the documents to the second solicitor:

(i) if the second solicitor undertakes to hold the documents subject to the lien and with reasonable security for the unpaid costs; or

(ii) if the first solicitor agrees to the second solicitor agreeing to pay, or entering into an agreement with the client to procure payment of, the first solicitor’s costs upon completion of the relevant proceedings.

15.1.2 alternatively, the solicitor, upon receiving reasonable security for the unpaid costs, must deliver the documents to the client.

Where the documents are essential to the former client's continuing proceedings, a solicitor who is exercising a lien must still deliver the documents if there is reasonable security (Rule 15.1.1), or otherwise to the client (Rule 15.1.2). For Queensland solicitors refer to Lexon's insurance checklist on the transfer of a client file.

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