Legal action can be expensive. In most cases, you will need to pay for a lawyer to present your case. Other costs which you can expect to pay are filing fees to start the legal action and the costs of paying for any expert witnesses who will give evidence to support your case.

Fundraising is often an important part of preparing to bring an environmental law case.

Costs risks

The general rule in litigation is that if you are successful in all or part of your case, the court may order that some of your legal costs are paid by the losing party. Legal costs are your costs incurred in paying a lawyer and any experts as well as other legal expenses, such as court filing fees.

However, if you are unsuccessful, there is the risk that you may have to pay the legal costs of the other parties. Depending on the court and the nature of the legal case, costs risks can be in the order of thousands of dollars.

In the Northern Territory Civil and Administrative Tribunal, each party is expected to pay their own legal costs, whether or not they win (s 131). However, the Tribunal has the power to order that a party has to pay another party’s legal costs (s 132).

Australian courts have discretion as to whether to award costs. In public interest cases, it may be possible to limit the potential amount of costs which may be awarded by applying for a protective costs order.

What is pro bono?

Some lawyers may take on cases for free or may charge reduced fees for their work. This is known as “pro bono”. Lawyers will typically only act in pro bono cases if there is a public interest in the matter.

If you need help with a legal case but cannot afford to pay for a lawyer you may be able to get help from:

If you have an environmental law dispute, contact the Environmental Defenders Office for free legal advice on public interest environmental law issues

While all care has been taken in the preparation of our Fact Sheets, they are a guide only and are no substitute for legal advice in individual cases. For any specific questions, you should seek legal advice.

This Fact Sheet last updated: February 2019

The EDO acknowledges the generous support of the Northern Territory Law Society Public Purposes Trust to enable publication of this Fact Sheet.