The amount that a lawyer will charge varies depending on their experience, expertise and the work that will be completed in your matter. This can cause fees to vary dramatically. For example, what you are charged will increase if you are seeking assistance in a specialized area of law such as intellectual property or the assistance of an experienced barrister such as a Special Counsel or Queen’s Counsel. There are different methods that lawyers may utilize to determine a fee for their service. This is outlined in the cost disclosure, although it is important to note that a lawyer can charge you without presenting this.

There are various ways a lawyer may charge a client, which may include

1. Hourly Rate

An hourly rate is often the most common way of billing a client. This can also extend to payment in billable time increments, often in 6-minute intervals.

2. Retainer Fee

A retainer will be paid upfront, from which the lawyer deducts their fee as they work on your matter. It is important to note that if you withdraw from pursuing a matter, the prior charges deducted from the retainer may not necessarily be refunded.

3. Flat Fee

This is commonly charged for specified work in a matter, such as trademarks and wills. This fee will often be stated prior to commencing work, although it is important to note what is included and what is excluded in the fee and what will be additionally charged if it is required during the matter.

4. Contingency Fee

A contingency fee is charged at the resolution of the matter, and can be a percentage of the settlement. This is currently prohibited across all states and territories in Australia, so it is essential to identify whether a contingency fee is charged prior to going ahead with the matter.

5. “No Win, No Fee”

In the case of a “No Win, No Fee” charge, this fee will only be payable when you win your matter and is considered to be a proportion of the settlement. On the other hand, if your matter is not successful, then the lawyer will not charge you. It is important to note that you may still need to pay disbursements and the legal fees of the other success party in your matter.

6. Referral Fee

If you approach a lawyer who believes that they are not the most suitable person to deal with your matter, they may refer you to another lawyer who has more experience in the certain area of law. As a result of this referral, sometimes a referral fee may be charged and as such, the original lawyer will receive a portion of the fee. It is important that you are aware of this, as this may cause the fee to increase.


It is best to identify how you will be charged for the legal service you are seeking in your matter. Ideally this should be outlined in a cost disclosure before work on your matter begins, as there are many ways that you can be charged and the amount will vary from lawyer to lawyer.

Sabrina Ebrahimi

Sabrina is currently a Legal Tech Intern at LawPath. With an interest in commercial law, corporate law and innovation, she is completing a Bachelor of Laws at the University of Technology Sydney.