The Association of Costs Lawyers held their Annual Conference last Friday and Saturday and it was another spectacular event.
The line-up of speakers and panel members read like a Who’s Who of the legal costs world including (not an exhaustive list):
The Hon. Mr Justice Ramsey
Alexander Hutton QC
Professor Dominic Regan
Regional Costs Judge Ian Besford
Simon Browne QC
Master Peter Hurst
Master Colin Campbell
Master Andrew Gordon-Saker
Master Peter Howarth
Regional Costs Judge Christopher Lethem
Regional Costs Judge Simon Middleton
The event provided an invaluable insight into the massive changes currently happening in the area of costs law but two particular things struck me:
1. The cost of a large gin and tonic at the hotel bar. £17.10 (seventeen pounds and ten pence). Being a wealthy Costs Lawyer, this didn’t bother me but I felt sorry for someone less conspicuously wealthy, such as a Premier League footballer or a Russian oligarch, making the mistake of ordering a round of drinks.
2. The safe in my hotel room. This was a typical hotel safe just about large enough to hold an ipad. On the inside of the door was the warning: “Caution: Danger of suffocation”. Even the smallest of children couldn’t have fitted into this safe. At most, it might have been possible to fit a new born baby in. The mental image was therefore created of parents with a new born baby staying in the hotel and deciding they wanted to pop downstairs for a quick gin and tonic (total cost £34.20) and wanting to leave the baby behind in the room. Being responsible parents and wanting to keep the baby out of danger they decide that the best course of action would be to place the baby in the safe and lock the door till they get back.
Have lawyers and health and safety officers really reduced the country to the level where hotels need to place warning signs advising against the possible dangers of such a course of action?
The ACL Conference also marked the occasion of Chairman Iain Stark passing on the baton to Murray Heining. Iain has navigated the Association through choppy waters. Murray takes over as we sail into the maelstrom.
One of Iain’s main achievements during his period in office has been significantly raising the profile of the ACL. Much of this has been through the issuing of regular press releases, with the help of PR consultancy Black Letter PR, commenting on developments in legal costs and important costs judgments. Those who regularly read the legal press will have seen Iain being regularly quoted. Interestingly, this has been an area itself that has drawn criticism from some ACL members.
One complaint is that the Chairman should not express views that may not be shared 100% by all ACL members. This is not a view I share. Firstly, anodyne press releases along the lines of: “This is an important judgment that will help provide clarity in this difficult area of law” will not make their way into print and will defeat the purpose of the PR exercise. Secondly, and more to the point, it is entirely appropriate for the Chairman to express views that may not be shared by everyone else. I’ve not always seen eye-to-eye 100% with Iain but as a properly elected representative it is entirely appropriate for him to publically express his views on matters relating to cots and Costs Lawyers.
The second, related, complaint it that where he is quoted it should be made 100% clear he is expressing his views alone rather than speaking for the ACL as a whole. In fact, I don’t ever recall Iain purporting to speak on behalf of the Association as a whole when he has been quoted in the press. Rather, a quote will be given along the lines of “Iain Stark, chairman of the Association of Costs Lawyers, says…”. Readers of the legal press are presumably intelligent enough to understand the distinction between something said by a chairman and the views of the membership as a whole. Presidents of the Law Society or Chairmen of the Bar regularly make public comments that may not be shared by all their respective professions.
I don’t need President Obama to preface everything he says with “my personal view is x” to appreciate not all Americans may agree.
I trust Murray will continue where Iain left off when issuing press releases. Whereupon I will immediately pour scorn on anything he says.