Guidelines for charging outlays and disbursements
Guidelines for charging outlays and disbursements have been set by the Legal Services Commissioner.
Those guidelines were first published by the Commission in consultation with the Society in the June 2006 edition of Proctor for the information of practitioners to inform them of the guidelines and the Commissioner’s proposed approach to initiating disciplinary proceedings in respect of:-
- practitioners who have, in the past, billed outlays and disbursements in a manner different to that expressed in the guidelines; and
- practitioners who, in the future, bill outlays and disbursements in a manner inconsistent to that expressed in the guidelines.
After further consultation with the Society, the guidelines have been amended to:-
- Clarify that, as a general rule, the Commissioner does not expect law practices to review their past bills to identify and refund any postages and petties/sundries, photocopying and facsimiles charged to clients in excess of the actual amounts paid out on behalf of clients.
- Clarify that law practices should only bill postages and petties/sundries, photocopying and facsimiles to clients as outlays or disbursements if they are capable of and have been accurately costed.
- Clarify that if postages and petties/sundries, photocopying and facsimiles cannot be accurately costed, they can be billed to clients under the heading “professional fees” provided the amounts are agreed with or adequately disclosed to clients prior to or at the time the clients retain the law practice to act on their behalf.
The Commission reviewed the Guidelines in May 2013 which clarified that law practices are not entitled to charge practice overheads as if they were outlays or disbursements. The Commissioner will decide any complaint or investigation matter involving an alleged or suspected breach of these principles on its individual merits in accordance with the Commission’s Discipline Application Guidelines.