Can I use a lawyer or professional representative?

Many people choose to represent themselves at VCAT. In most cases you do not need to be represented by a lawyer or a professional representative.

Usually you must ask for VCAT's permission to have someone represent you.

Whether you are represented or not, we make decisions according to the law. We support self-represented people so they understand VCAT procedures. Learn more about our fair hearingDefinitionThe time and place at which VCAT hears the parties argue their case and makes a decision. obligation in our Fair Hearing Obligation Practice Note PNVCAT3.

If you are given permission to use a lawyer or professional representative, you need to arrange it yourself. VCAT does not provide lawyers or other advocates to parties.

Find service providers who offer legal help or information.

Automatic right to representation

In some cases, you do not need our permission for someone to represent you. Having an automatic right to representation means that you don’t have to ask permission of VCAT to be represented. It does not mean that VCAT provides you with a lawyer.

A professional representative can automatically represent:

  • a child
  • a municipal council
  • a body corporate
  • the Victorian Government, a government minister or a person representing the government
  • a public authority
  • someone who holds a statutory office
  • a credit provider
  • a builder’s warranty insurer.

When the other party has automatic representation

If any other partyDefinitionA person or organisation directly involved in a VCAT case, including a person or organisation that has brought the case before VCAT or who is defending claims made against them. in your case is automatically allowed and wants to be represented, you may also be represented.

When the other party is a professional advocate

If the other party is a professional advocate, for example a lawyer, you may also be represented.

Ask permission to be represented

If you are not entitled to automatic representation and you want to be represented, you must request VCAT's permission at the directions hearingDefinitionA directions hearing is a hearing where a VCAT member decides how a case should be managed and how much time it will take. , final hearing, mediationDefinitionMediations are confidential meetings where parties discuss ways to resolve their dispute, with the help of an impartial mediator. or compulsory conferenceDefinitionCompulsory conferences are confidential meetings where parties discuss ways to resolve their dispute with the help of a VCAT member. . You must be ready to present your case yourself if we do not allow you to be represented.

Legal and professional costs

At VCAT, parties are expected to pay their own costs, unless VCAT orders otherwise. Section 109 of the Victorian Civil and Administrative Act 1998 sets out VCAT's power to award costs.

VCAT may only order one party to pay another party's costs if it is fair to do so. The Act provides examples of circumstances where we might make an order for costs. They include:

  • where a party has brought a case vexatiously or frivolously, or
  • where a party has unreasonably prolonged a hearing, or
  • where the case for the applicantDefinitionThe person or organisation applying to VCAT. is misconceived, weak on the relative merits or not tenable in fact or law.

Authority to represent

If you want to authorise someone to represent you at the proceeding, you must give them written authority and they must bring that written authority to the directions hearing, mediation or compulsory conference.

The person you have authorised to represent you is called an agent.

You must ensure the agent has:

  • first hand knowledge of the dispute to present your case
  • authority to agree to any settlement
  • authority to make promises to VCAT in relation to any decision.

A company must appoint an agent for the hearing. The agent must have written authority signed by a director of the company, which must be submitted at the start of the hearing.

Sample written authority to represent a party

Here is a sample of written authority given to an agent:

Jill Smith (or ABC Pty Ltd, if a company), a party in the VCAT case reference number xxxxx/20xx, applies to be represented by an agent at the hearing. The agent’s name is John Smith (insert occupation and add 'employed by the company' if a company).

The agent has sufficient knowledge of the issues in dispute and is vested with sufficient authority to bind the party.

Date xx/xx/xx

Signed:______________ Name:______________ Position:______________

Case types

Some details of the steps to follow during a VCAT case vary for different case types.
Choose a case type to see any case type specific variations.