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Those of you with a good memory will recall that I promised to tell you three occasions where I was wrong. This is the third in my public confessions.
I was wrong to argue that the Association of Law Costs Draftsmen was mistaken in its attempt to continue as approved regulator.
At the ALCD’s Annual General Meeting, 82 of the 84 members who voted backed the proposal to retain approved regulator status, with two abstaining. Of the 76 proxy votes received, 57 were in favour, 15 against and 4 abstained. With such a large number in favour the arguments must clearly be overwhelming. Only a fool continues to insist the world is round if everyone else knows it is flat.
I do still wonder though why more effort wasn’t put into explaining the overwhelmingly strong arguments in favour, in advance of the vote, given many ALCD members would be unable to attend the debate in person.
At the debate, ALCD President Matthew Harman, said: “If we vote against [the proposals], the association will die today”. That may well have been true, but it is not self-evidently obvious why that should have been so.
Wikipedia, which is always 100% accurate about everything, informs me that: “The ALCD was formed in 1977 with the object of promoting the status and interests of the profession of law costs draftsmen generally and ensuring the maintenance of the highest professional standards”. It was not until 1 January 2007 that the ALCD was granted authorised body status. It presumably achieved this by virtue of its previous success as an organisation representing the interests of law costs draftsmen. It is therefore far from clear why the loss of a status that had only been held for a short period of time in its history would suddenly have condemned it to immediate death or why it would no longer be able to continue as before.
Coincidently, I have recently been reading Irrationality by Stuart Sutherland. The book describes a well known psychological phenomenon called the “sunk cost error”.
“People who have made a sacrifice (in money, time or effort) in order to do something tend to go on doing it even when they stand to lose more than they gain by continuing. … The reluctance to stop a project in which large funds have already been invested is revealed by a remark of Senator Denton when he was urging the US Senate to continue a waterway project that was clearly not viable. He said, ‘To terminate a project in which $1.1 billion has been invested represents and unconscionable mishandling of taxpayers’ dollars’. What he could not see was that to continue the work would represent an even more unconscionable mishandling.”
Costs Lawyer magazine reported the views of the final contributor to the ALCD debate who “recalled how the move towards costs lawyer status began in 2003, and to retreat now would mean ‘seven years of work and cost down the drain’”.
Sunk cost error?