Autonomous payment criteria

The autonomous payment criteria (formerly: autonomous payment guidelines), as a product of the self-governing principle in the chambers of professional workers, only provide an indication of what the lawyer’s bill should be when an agreement falls through or cannot be made. This is independent of the legal ruling of the lawyers’ tariff laws, which contain the public standardisation of the compensation of the opponent’s expenditures to be agreed on when a case is lost. These are necessary and also inevitable, because the agreement is made outside the private-autonomous relationship of the lawyer to his own clients.

In principle, the freedom of agreements is applied to the lawyer’s fee (just as the principle of the freedom of contract in general). However, in a case where this was not affected, or could not have been affected due to the most varied reasons (roughly due to the unpredictability of the development of negotiations with an erratic opponent) general rules for the verifiability of the settlement are needed, because the lawyer should not be able to charge what he feels like for his job.

There are also general rules for laws applicable to works and services in the Civil Code. The yardstick for the allocation of a certain fee is its appropriateness in relation to the value of the duty performed. Only things which are, and have been, generally (and justifiably) charged in comparable situations are allowed to be demanded for non-gratuitous services. When the employer and employee’s opinions diverge it is the judge who makes the decision, as this matter does not present a judicial question but rather a question of facts and realities. In this case this can be regarded as “appropriate”. In a similar way (just as the technical expert is employed for his professional opinion in the appropriateness of the accounting of skilled craftsmen) the autonomous payment criteria can be regarded as the typified expert opinion of the Austrian law society about entitlement to legal fees.

In this context it is important to emphasise that these payment criteria do not stipulate a minimum rate for fees for all lawyers to abide by and are therefore not alarming to legal competition. In a similar way scales and yardsticks are provided for the appropriateness of legal fees in every area which is not under the control of the lawyers’ tariff laws (because a debatable court case with its principle of compensatory costs and its effects on the client’s relationship to third parties is not affected).



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