Know if having a lawyer or paid agent is worth it. Make sure you choose your lawyer or paid agent carefully.
On this page:
Ask what a lawyer or paid agent costs
Before you get a lawyer or paid agent, make sure you know how much it will cost. This can help you decide if it’s worth paying for their help.
You generally need to pay your own lawyer or paid agent’s fees (we call these fees 'costs'), even if you win. It’s very rare that we order the other party to pay your costs.
Sometimes a lawyer or paid agent takes their fees out of your settlement money or compensation. This could mean there won’t be much, if any, money left over after you pay their fees.
If you agree to a settlement, you usually sign a written document with the details of the settlement.
This document can say that you will receive the money directly. It does not have to say the money will be paid to a lawyer or paid agent’s account.
Choose your lawyer or paid agent carefully
Ask for and read the terms and conditions for your lawyer or paid agent before you hire them. It can also help to look at online reviews.
Know if your lawyer or paid agent is in Australia or overseas
Find out which country your lawyer or paid agent is based in. Do this before you hire them.
Lots of businesses have offices in other countries. If your representative is overseas, this can make things harder.
This is because:
- You may not be able to reach them in urgent situations because of the time difference.
- They are unlikely or unable to come to Australia for a hearing in person at the Commission.
Signs that your lawyer or paid agent is not in Australia
Your lawyer or paid agent may be overseas if these things happen to you:
- When you call them, you aren’t able to speak to a person (only an automated messaging service).
- If you can only contact them by email, instant messaging, or another online platform.
- They always contact you rather than the other way around.
If you want to make sure your lawyer or paid agent is based in Australia, ask for:
- written confirmation that the person who will handle your case is in Australia
- a face-to-face appointment.
Know how much and what you are paying for
Make sure you understand:
- how much a lawyer or paid agent will charge you
- when they will charge you
- what exactly they will do for you.
Again, you should do this before you hire them.
You should ask the following questions:
- Will you prepare my application or response and any written submissions?
- If the case doesn’t settle at conciliation or mediation, will you charge me? How much?
- Will you represent me at conciliation or mediation, and then any further conference or hearing, if I need you to?
- Will you charge me if I decide to stop or withdraw my application without your approval?
- Will you charge me if I take part in a conciliation, mediation or hearing without you?
- You are going to speak for me during a conciliation, mediation or hearing. But if I speak for myself as well, will you still charge me?
Understand different fees and costs
Always check you understand what the fees and costs mean.
'No win no fee'
'No win no fee' usually means you only have to pay a fee if your case is successful.
Make sure you understand the terms and conditions before you agree to this arrangement. You should ask your lawyer or paid agent:
- If you have to pay them a fixed filing or lodgement fee on top of the application fee the Commission charges. They may expect you to pay this even if you don't 'win'.
- What they think a ‘win’ means. For example, the other party may offer to pay you an amount of money. You refuse because you think the offer is too low. Will your lawyer or paid agent consider the offer a ‘win’ and charge you?
Before you agree to a fixed fee, make sure you find out exactly what your lawyer or paid agent will do for you.
The fixed fee might only cover:
- a single consultation (face-to-face, online or over the phone)
- one document (such as a letter or submission)
- a one-off appearance at a conciliation, mediation, conference or hearing.
You might have to pay extra for further help or representation. This might be another fixed amount, or you might have to pay by the hour even when your case does not succeed.
A retainer is generally a payment before the lawyer or paid agent starts work, or repeated payments over time, until your case finishes. This may happen even when your case is not successful.
Complain about a lawyer or paid agent
You can complain if you have a bad experience with a lawyer or paid agent. Go to Complain about lawyers or paid agents to find out what you can do.
Remember that it’s your case
Make sure you are happy with any documents, letters or emails your lawyer or paid agent sends us.
If they get any names or facts wrong, this can cause problems for you. Ask them for, and keep copies of, everything they send to us on your behalf.