Appointment of Costs Assessor

Recently the Court considered the issue of which Costs Assessor should be appointed to assess the costs payable to a Firm by a Client. The Application for Assessment complied in all respects with the requirements of the Legal Profession Act 2007 and the Uniform Civil Procedure Rules 1999. The only issue in dispute before the Assessment could be undertaken was the identity of the Costs Assessor to conduct the Assessment.

There are currently 33 Costs Assessors on the Register of Approved Costs Assessors maintained by the Supreme Court of Queensland, and the hourly rates charged by these Costs Assessors range from $180 per hour to $500 per hour + GST, subject to which Costs Assessor is appointed. Likewise, their skill and experience, as well as their capacity to undertake Assessments differs with some practising exclusively as Costs Assessors and legal costs consultants while others also practise as solicitors in private practice in a law firm.

In Mandikos v HopgoodGanim [2013] QDC 315, the Costs Assessors proposed by each of the Applicant and the Respondent charged different hourly rates (as is common). Samios DCJ stated at [4]:

"...I accept that it is correct that a highly experienced cost assessor, as a general proposition, could be expected to be quicker in conducting the assessment then a less experienced one..."

The fact that one Costs Assessor's hourly rate is different to another does not necessarily mean that the higher hourly rate is excessive. The skill and experience of the Costs Assessor is important, as is their capacity to undertake the Assessment (see comments of Samios DCJ in Mandikos v HopgoodGanim at [5]).

If a Costs Assessor who charges $400 per hour + GST completes an Assessment in 3 hours, and another Costs Assessor who charges $280 per hour + GST takes 5 hours to complete the same Assessment then the Costs Assessor with the lower "hourly rate" actually charges higher total fees.

As it is becoming more common to challenge the identity of the Costs Assessor to conduct the Assessment it is recommended that as well as obtaining the usual form Consent and evidence of qualifictaions and experience of the proposed Costs Assessor, that information regarding the proposed Costs Assessor's capacity to undertake the Assessment in a timely manner be included in the materaial provided and filed in support of the Application for the appointment of the Costs Assessor.




Add a comment