Last Updated 1 August 2016

The Queensland Law Society and certain community legal centres can provide referrals to appropriate private solicitors by location and type of law practised. Contact details for barristers can be obtained from the Bar Association of Australia.

The process of employing and working with a lawyer (i.e. telling them what you want them to do for you, getting guidance from them about the best way to proceed with your case and giving them information so that they can prepare your case/documentation for you) is generally called ‘instructing’ or ‘retaining’ a lawyer.

When instructing a lawyer, a person should be aware of:

  • the type and amount of work that will be done by the lawyer, including information about the various stages of the legal process (the scope of the retainer)
  • the fees that will be charged by the lawyer (sometimes called professional fees)
  • the amount of outlays or disbursements that may be needed for additional items such as medical reports and valuations, which often need to be paid up front by the client
  • whether the lawyer or a barrister will be undertaking court representation; if a barrister is to be employed, care should be taken to establish the cost of this before the barrister is actually engaged by the solicitor
  • the names of the people in the lawyer’s office who will be responsible for running the case (e.g. senior lawyers may have junior or trainee solicitors or clerks working on client matters, and this may affect not only who you need to contact but also the lawyer’s costs)
  • the particular timeframe for the handling of the matter. While lawyers are not always able to provide exact dates of particular events in advance (e.g. court dates before an action has even started), they are often able to give an idea of how long matters generally take.

It is important to appreciate that a lawyer is required to work within both legal and ethical boundaries. This means that a lawyer cannot always do what a client would like them to do. A lawyer cannot, for example, deliberately mislead a court by attempting to present a false story or hide information, even if this is what a client instructs them to do. Also, a lawyer can only tell a client what the law is, even if this means telling the client unfavourable news.