An unpaid lawyer's account is a debt which the lawyer can recover like any other debt, although the recovery proceedings may be stayed (halted) to allow the bill to be adjudicated. On adjudication, the bill is checked and the court decides what a fair and reasonable charge is. The Court can then order the client to pay the account in accordance with adjudicated bill. An appeal against a decision of the Registrar can be appealed to a Master of the Supreme Court. The lawyer also has the right to keep all the client's papers and documents relating to the case, and money covering costs claimed which is held on the client's behalf, until the bill is paid (this is known as a solicitor's lien). However, it is possible to apply for a court order requiring the solicitor to hand over the file, and the court will consider whether this should be done [see further s 39 Legal Practitioners Act 1981 (SA)].
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