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As an increasing number of readers of the Legal Costs Blog have observed, posts on virtually any subject quickly have the Comments section descend into a tat-for-tat debate about Costs Lawyers v Law Costs Draftsmen.
Although this was certainly not a debate I started, I have to concede I have added fuel to the fire with posts such as Costs Counsel v Costs Lawyer.
I’m now going to share, for what it’s worth, my views as to why this issue continues to generate endless bitter debate in the Comments section.
The Association of Costs Lawyers (by which I mean the majority views of elected ACL Councils) has sought to promote the interests and services of members of the Association. Although some non-members may not appreciate this (and I suspect a fair number of actual members), now that the Costs Lawyer Standards Board has primary responsibility for regulation of Costs Lawyers, the Association is little more than a trade union body whose role is limited to promoting the interests of its members, as opposed to being responsible for setting standards. It is therefore hardly surprising that singing the praises of its Costs Lawyer members is seen as a key role.
The approach to promoting the use of Costs Lawyers has been two-fold. Firstly, the Association has stressed the advantages of using Costs Lawyers in terms of members being qualified and regulated. However, even taking this “neutral” approach suggests by implication that those practising in costs who are not Costs Lawyers are not qualified (and therefore do not know what they are doing) and being unregulated are a bunch of cowboys.
Secondly, Chairmen of the Association have made direct attacks on non-Costs Lawyers:
• Warning that non-Costs Lawyers will be uninsured if something goes wrong.
• Seeking to persuade the courts not to allow non-Costs Lawyers rights of audience.
The Association has now pledged to use its funds to launch a campaign that will highlight to solicitors the risks of using non-Costs Lawyers.
Against the background of consistent and repeated attacks on the abilities and livelihoods of non-members it is hardly surprising that some have chosen to fight back and to do some with some venom. It would be bizarre if they did not. Unsurprisingly, this has tended to focus on the questionable qualification route to Costs Lawyer status taken by some and the “mixed” abilities of others.
There are also a number of practising Costs Lawyers, self-interest aside, who share the concerns as to the quality of some of those being held out by the Association as “specialists” in this field and the Association’s claims that they are all, by virtue of Costs Lawyer status alone, able to offer a genuinely skilled service in this complex area.
Thirdly, and I declare an interest here, there will be Costs Lawyers in practice with other non-Costs Lawyers who are equally or more skilled in costs than the vast majority of those who are Costs Lawyers but who have seen no need to go down the route of becoming Costs Lawyers. Those will question the appropriateness of the Association using members’ membership fees to attack their colleagues based on, often, wholly misleading claims as to the advantages of using Costs Lawyers.
On the flipside, many of those who are Costs Lawyers will naturally wish to defend the perceived value of their status (hard earned or not), particularly in light of the massive threats to job security in light of the Jackson reforms. And so attacks and count-attacks continue on the Comments section.
And this debate will not go away whilst the attacks on non-Costs Lawyers continue.
Nevertheless, there has to be a limit to which every blog post here gets hijacked by the issue. I am therefore going to designate this post to this topic for future use. Those wishing to continue the discussion can do so here indefinitely, if they so desire, but off-topic comments on this issue on other posts will be deleted. I very much doubt this is the last post on the issue I will write, and there will no doubt be other occasions where issues relating directly to the ACL/CLSB are raised on the Blog, and relevant comment will then be welcome on the subject on the appropriate post. But not otherwise.