A lawyer attempted to charge his client a $120,000 "cancellation fee" when the man pleaded guilty and the case didn't go to trial.

That level of that fee was not fair or reasonable, according to a Law Society Standards Committee and the barrister was ordered to reduce it to $40,000.

The barrister, who is not identified by the standards committee and charged $8000 per day for attendances in court, told the client in a letter:

"I have committed to a trial duration of eight weeks and have not been able to take on other work for that period as a result. Should the full eight weeks of hearing time not be required, I will include in my fee the equivalent of one additional week in court to reflect that commitment."


After the client pleaded guilty and the case did not go to trial the lawyer sent his client a bill for fees - $128,000 for "preparation" and a further $120,000 "cancellation fee".

When the pair couldn't resolve the situation, the client complained to the Law Society.

The client said he had accepted a proposal of a one-week cancellation fee and had paid $40,000 to cover this. The remaining $80,000 was disputed.

The standards committee did not accept there was any contractual basis for level of the cancellation fee charged by the lawyer.

"The balance of the fee, $80,000, is found by the standards committee to be excessive and unjustified either as a matter of contract or established principles of professionalism in relation to lawyers' fees," the committee said.

Schoolyard 'bully'

In a separate case, two workers at an unnamed school complained about a lawyer who used her work email signature in a private message to allegedly "bully and intimidate them".

The lawyer included her practice details in correspondence when resigning from the Board of Trustees at the school, which her son attended.

"I wish it to be clear that I will not hesitate to take action if his enjoyment of school is in any way affected, " the woman said of her son in the email.

The school worker complained to the standards committee, which decided to take no further action on the complaint but said such emails could mislead the public about "the capacity in which the lawyer was communicating."


"The standards committee's advice is that a practitioner, who in correspondence discloses their professional identity, should make it clear in what capacity he or she is acting when sending that correspondence," the committee said.