You can choose to represent yourself in a case at the Commission. Lots of people do, and we have a range of free resources to help you prepare your case yourself, including:
In most cases, you can ask a friend or family member to represent you. They can also use all our free resources.
A lawyer is a person who is admitted to the legal profession by a Supreme Court of a State or Territory.
A paid agent is someone who charges or receives a fee to represent you in a case before the Commission (other than a bargaining representative).
You may need to ask us for permission to be represented by a lawyer or paid agent. Our lawyers and paid agents practice note explains when you need to ask for permission to be represented. Our benchbooks also have information about asking for permission in different kinds of cases.
Before getting a lawyer or paid agent, make sure you know how much it will cost. This can help you decide if it’s worth paying for their help.
If you agree to a settlement payment or are awarded compensation, your lawyer or paid agent may take their fees out of your settlement money or compensation. In some cases, this could mean there won’t be much, if any, settlement or compensation money left over after you pay your lawyer or paid agent’s fees (these fees are sometimes called costs).
There is a cap on how much compensation the Commission can award in unfair dismissal matters. Our unfair dismissals benchbook has information about compensation caps and how we decide how much compensation to award.
If you agree to a settlement, you usually sign a written document called terms of settlement.
The Commission does not require terms of settlement to state that settlement money will be paid to a lawyer or paid agent’s account. The settlement money can be paid to you directly.
The Commission has received complaints from people who were represented by Employee Claims Pty Ltd ABN 46 638 548 115 (trading as Employee Dismissal Claims) in Commission proceedings. They say that this company received settlement money on their behalf but did not pass the money on to them (for example, by not responding to repeated phone calls and emails.)
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission also has a Public Warning Notice on its website about the alleged conduct of Dismissals Direct Pty Ltd ACN 616 466 865 (trading as Unfair Dismissals Direct).
If you do decide to use a lawyer or paid agent, make sure you choose carefully. Read their terms and conditions before hiring them. It can also help to look at online reviews.
The Commission can’t recommend a lawyer or paid agent for you.
Our Workplace Advice Service can refer you to law firms, community legal centres and legal aid bodies for free legal help for some cases. Other than that, we are not connected or affiliated with, and do not endorse, any commercial providers of workplace relations advice or services.
If a lawyer or paid agent tells you they are connected or affiliated with the Fair Work Commission, read our Complaints about lawyers & paid agents page to find out more.
Before engaging a lawyer or paid agent, find out where the person who will be handling your case will be. Lots of reputable law firms have offices in other countries, but being represented by someone who is overseas can make things harder.
If you’re not sure if your lawyer or paid agent is overseas, consider if:
If you want to make sure you’re hiring a lawyer or paid agent who is based in Australia, you can ask for written confirmation that the person who will handle your case is in Australia, or ask for an in-person appointment (where COVID-19 restrictions permit). Make sure you do this before you engage them.
Before engaging a lawyer or paid agent, make sure you understand how much they will charge you, when you’ll be charged, and what exactly they will do for you.
Find out what their fee arrangement is.
No win no fee
No win no fee usually means you only have to pay a fee if the case is resolved in your favour.
Make sure you understand all of the fine print before agreeing to this arrangement, including:
Before agreeing to a fixed fee arrangement, make sure you find out exactly what your lawyer or paid agent will do for you.
The fixed fee might only cover:
You might have to pay extra for further help or representation. This might be another fixed amount, or you might have to pay by the hour even if your lawyer or paid agent isn’t able to secure a favourable outcome for you.
A retainer is generally where you make an upfront payment, or repeated payments over a period of time, until your case finishes, even if your lawyer or paid agent isn’t able to secure a favourable outcome for you.
You generally need to pay your own lawyer or paid agent’s fees, even if you win (we call these fees costs).
It’s very rare that we order the other party to pay your costs. You can read more about these limited circumstances in our Benchbooks including our Unfair dismissals benchbook, General protections benchbook, and Anti-bullying benchbook.
Before a friend, family member, lawyer or paid agent submits any documents or correspondence to the Commission on your behalf, make sure you are happy with them.
If a representative has submitted inaccurate information to the Commission (for instance if they use the wrong name for a party, or get the facts wrong) this can cause problems for you.
Keep copies of everything your representative sends to the Commission on your behalf.
If you have concerns about any conduct or statements made by lawyers or paid agents that you think could be inappropriate, wrong or misleading, go to:
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission also has a Public Warning Notice on its website about the alleged conduct of Dismissals Direct Pty Ltd ACN 616 466 865 (trading as Unfair Dismissals Direct