Lawyers are paid about $20,000 to $30,000 per annum in fees, but their employment contracts can contain clauses that allow them to withhold compensation for wrongful or negligent conduct.
Lawyers must also abide by the legal codes of conduct set by the profession, which sets out the obligations and expectations of their clients.
The most common types of contract disputes are between lawyers and their clients, or between lawyers, the client and their client.
“The key thing is that you need to have a contract that reflects your professional duties,” says Mark O’Brien, a lawyer who specialises in legal matters.
“I’ve had clients say they don’t want to see a lawyer when their client gets hurt, because it’s just too costly.”
O’Brien says he has had clients who refuse to pay his fees for work he has already done and has also had clients refuse to do work he’s agreed to do for them.
“It’s a huge barrier to employment,” he says.
“We can’t just hire a lawyer to do a job, we have to get a contract.”
The problem with contracts is that, for many lawyers, they are often written in a way that makes them more expensive to defend.
“You need to ensure that the work you’re doing is fair,” says Mr O’Boyle.
“If the work is a good one, that’s good.
If the work isn’t a good job, that doesn’t mean that the contract isn’t fair.”
Overnight: A lawyer’s life changedWhen Mark O`Brien was first asked to work as a lawyer in Melbourne, he was reluctant.
“In the early days I didn’t really think that would be possible,” he explains.
“It was very challenging, but it was actually quite rewarding.”
But as the years went on, I realised that I wanted to be a lawyer.
“And that was one of the reasons why I was so interested in the law.”
At the end of the day, I just love the profession and I love doing it.
“Mark O`Boyle, a barrister who specialise in civil litigation, says that he was initially reluctant to take on a new client.
He says he was able to convince his former client to pay him a substantial amount of money.”
He came to me and said ‘I’ve got a very good case, I’ve been working for the police for 20 years, I want to be the best lawyer I can possibly be’,” O’O’Boyles says.
But he says it was when his client had an accident that things changed.”
My client was taken to hospital and he went into intensive care for a month, and he was in intensive care and then he died.
“That was a pretty hard thing to come to terms with and it took a lot of courage to come out and say, ‘I need you to pay me the money’.”
“It took a while to find a way to pay, but eventually I had a contract where he would pay me back.”
After losing his case, O’ O’ Boyle says he found the legal profession more rewarding.
He has worked for the ABC since 2007 and has represented a number of clients including victims of police brutality and children’s charities.
“There’s a big difference between being a lawyer and being a victim,” he said.
“As a lawyer, you’re a victim and you’re supposed to take responsibility for what’s happening to you.”
When you’re on the receiving end of that, you need the protection of the law to protect you.
“He says that, in a stressful or stressful job, the emotional toll can be immense.”
A lot of times, the most important thing you can do is just keep your head up, keep going,” he concludes.
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