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What is a trust account? A trust account is a bank account that holds money that is entrusted to a law practice in the course of (or in connection with) the provision of legal services. It is operated in line with the regulations set out under the Legal Profession Act 2004. Why does the firm have a trust account? The trust account enables our firm to legally receive and distribute money in order to provide legal services. The trust account holds money paid to or by clients ‘in trust’ until payment or disbursement is required or approved by our client. Is the money in trust still my money? Yes. The money in the trust account is literally ‘held in trust’ for you. It remains your money. We do not touch your money in trust without your approval. For payment of our legal costs we do the following: 1. Provide you with an account accompanied with an explanation of the work undertaken; 2. Wait for you to have an opportunity to review the account and the work undertaken; and 3. We contact you for your approval to transfer the money from trust to pay the account. Why do I have to put money into your trust account before work is undertaken on my matter? This practice enhances our ability to provide quality legal services to our clients. We know this because: 1. Our clients are fully informed of all possible costs of their matter before they commit to any legal services or litigation; 2. We avoid unnecessary time or conflict that can arise if a client is unable to pay for legal services after they have engaged a lawyer for assistance; 3. Our clients are given the opportunity to regularly discuss their legal costs and make informed decisions with each stage of their matter; and 4. It provides a clear structure for our lawyers to ensure that each of our client’s expectations are addressed. This allows us to concentrate on the legal issues in your matter and work towards getting you the best possible outcome. Do all matters require a deposit into the trust account? No. Although most matters will require this, our firm undertakes some matters where there is no need for money to be put into trust. These matters will be individually approved by the Partners of the firm. Your lawyer will tell you if your matter does not require a trust payment. How much will I need to put into the trust account? We will provide you with all the details you need regarding the payments to be made. It is important to us that we give you the following information as soon as we are able to: 1. An amount of money to deposit into our trust account in order to undertake the initial advice on your matter; 2. Where applicable, an estimate of costs for each possible stage that may be required to be undertaken in your matter; 3. An estimate of total costs based on the ‘worst case’ scenario. From an early stage we look at your legal issue and do our best to provide an estimate that includes all possible tasks that could be required. For example, you might come and see us regarding a debt that is owed to you. That debt may be paid to you after the other party receives our letter of demand to pay; however, we will provide you with an estimate of the total costs that would be involved in pursuing that debt to a final court hearing and recovery procedures if the other party refuses to pay; and 4. Progress reports and updated estimates of the costs required to complete the next stage. Can I raise issues that I have with my bill? Yes. We encourage you to discuss any matters at all with us, especially your costs. By placing money in trust you do not give up your right to have your bill examined or discuss any matters regarding it. Is my money protected in trust? Yes. The Legal Profession Act 2004 governs how legal practitioners handle trust money. Under the Act legal practitioners must: 1. Disburse trust money only as directed by the person on whose behalf it is held; 2. Deposit trust money to a general trust account maintained with an approved and authorised deposit-taking institution in New South Wales, such as a bank, building society or credit union; and 3. Keep accurate records of their trust accounts and make them available for inspection by external examiners appointed by the Law Society. The Law Society’s Trust Account Department has the responsibility of examining records maintained by legal practitioners to ensure they properly account for the money held in trust. Where do I find more information regarding costs and money in trust? The New South Wales Law Society publishes some very helpful information on their website. For more information you can go to:http://www.lawsociety.com.au/ForSolictors/professionalstandards/Costs/Clientfactsheets/index.htm; orhttp://www.lawsociety.com.au/community/thelawyerclientrelationship/Trustcontrolledmoneyaccounts/index.htm

 

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