Tariff laws

The Austrian lawyers’ tariff law is a public rule for the legal profession’s earnings levels, and its speciality lies in the fact that its fees often result from the liable opponent in the form of financial compensation, with whom the client’s own representative does not have a legal relationship. Naturally this takes the primary statutory duty of the lawyer – representation in court – and determines the lawyer’s costs according to two central criteria, which (as in a two-dimensional coordinate system between the x and y axes) codify the extent of the fees in an incrementally flattening curve.

One axis specifies the classic functions of the litigation lawyer, typified into “tariff entries” and thereby assumes there is a classic oral “trial” (with fine differences between more costly “contested” and less expensive “non-contested proceedings”) and accompanying preliminary written submissions (of various degrees of complexity – roughly ordered according to the levels of jurisdiction). However, communication outside the court case also takes place orally (during telephone conversations or in conferences) or in writing (originally in letters and today more frequently per fax or email). And naturally it is true that the more communication is required, the more written submissions and negotiations are necessary, so the longer the individual “hearings” last, and therefore the more the lawyer will cost.

The other axis serves to define the amount of compensation costs in a lawsuit. However, it also, and more importantly, defines the meaning of the matter which the lawsuit is about. This is more important because more responsibility necessarily generates higher costs: the higher the stakes are, the more expensive the proceedings will be. It also determines the basis for assessment of a judicial cause – the amount involved in the case. This is easy to account for if the focus of the complaint is the payment of money, or if the procedural laws envisage any other assessments of normal disputes: lawsuits in the county courts are generally less important than those which take place in the court of justice. In all other cases the prosecutor determines the amount in dispute according to the so-called “interest” of the proceedings – with the possibility of the defendant (and this is self-evident in the trial) to reduce the amount in dispute due to the convention of equal terms for the parties in the proceedings.

The determination of the basis for assessment always means financial control programmes are fixed by the specification of the lawyer’s costs. The so-called “cost-cudgel” can become misused in both directions: The fact that the enforcement of justified claims is made impossible for some economically worse placed opponents due to an extremely highly fixed basis for assessment unfortunately continues to be a reality, despite all the corrective mechanisms of the law. Conversely if the amount in dispute is set too low (because conducting the lawsuit is cheaper than the costs of the payment of its duties) the opponent can be made to appear more profitable. Furthermore, the enforcement of justified claims can be temporarily hindered due to overly long proceedings and the actual topics relevant to the case can be clouded using unjustified claims and irrelevant pleas. In this tangle of financial definitions it is our duty to nevertheless help you achieve a breakthrough for your legal claims.



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