The following is a summary of the changes to the costs scales relevant to employers/insurers operating in the District and Supreme Courts and WorkCover WA.
District and Supreme Court (including District Court appeals)
From 1 July 2020 the Legal Profession (Supreme and District Courts) (Contentious Business) Determination 2020 replaced the Legal Profession (Supreme and District Courts) (Contentious Business) Determination 2018 and the Legal Profession (District Court Appeals) (Contentious Business) Determination 2018.
Table A – Hourly and Daily Rates
The only change made to the hourly and daily rates of fee earners is an increase to the maximum allowable rates charged by counsel (as opposed to senior counsel).
|Pre 1 July 2020||New Rate|
|Counsel Hourly Rate||$418||$451|
|Counsel Daily Rate||$4,180||$4,510|
Table B – Supreme Court Scale of Costs 2020
Most amendments reflect the increase to the maximum amounts chargeable from item to item by counsel as a result of the increase in the allowable rate.
There were, however, some other amendments:
- Item 17(a) to (e): Applications for Compromise under Order 70, Rules of the Supreme Court:
New item introduced to provide for fees relating to applications made pursuant to Order 70 to compromise a claim for a plaintiff under a disability. The allowance for a brief to counsel in Item 17(c) is only permitted if counsel providing the opinion is not already briefed.
- Item 18(b): Preparation of schedules required by Rules 45C and 45D, District Court Rules.
There has been an increase in the maximum hours chargeable. Previously only 8 hours could be charged at the senior practitioner rate, whereas now up to 12 hours can be.
- Item 22(h): Refresher fees for counsel:
New item introduced to allow counsel and senior counsel to charge up to 1 full day’s fees for time spent revising a case, after conclusion of part of a hearing where 20 or more business days have passed before the subsequent part/s commence. The Court has ultimate discretion in deciding if such a charge is reasonable in the circumstances.
- Item 26: District Court appeals:
New item introduced to incorporate the costs claimable under the Legal Profession (District Court Appeals) (Contentious Business) Determination 2018 in order to consolidate the determinations.
- Item 32(b):
The description of this item has been expanded to avoid confusion/provide clarity as to what is chargeable at taxation and under what item those activities should be charged. It now includes attendance at mediations or conferences convened by the Court and any time spent attending to matters raised in the Rules and Practice Directions.
The Workers’ Compensation (Legal Profession and Registered Agents) Costs Determination 2018 applies to the remuneration of legal practitioners and registered agents for work carried out relating to WorkCover proceedings.
A new determination has not been released but the determination sets out the maximum allowable hours chargeable by reference to the Magistrates Court costs scale.
The Magistrates Court costs scale has been amended by the Legal Profession (Magistrates Court) (Civil) Determination 2020 came into operation on 1 July 2020. All hourly rates remain the same, except for counsel’s rates.
|Pre 1 July 2020||New Rate|
|Counsel Hourly Rate||$341||$363|
|Counsel Daily Rate||$3,410||$3,630|
Note though the Workers’ Compensation (Legal Profession and Registered Agents) Costs Determination 2018 does not provide for work performed by counsel, so there is effectively no change to the determination.
There have only been minimal changes.
There are steps that can be taken to further minimise any potential increase in legal costs associated with District and Supreme Court actions:
- Pay particular attention to the costs agreements of barristers (particularly junior barristers) prior to retaining them;
- Where possible, drive claims in which plaintiff’s retain Counsel towards opportunities for resolution; and
- Increase scrutiny of the plaintiff’s bill of costs.