Page 18 - PIC Magazine Issue 21
P. 18

 INTRODUCING THE ASSOCIATION OF
COSTS LAWYERS
The Association of Costs Lawyers (ACL) has come a long way since its foundation in 1977 as the Association of Law Costs Draftsmen.
or one thing, a profession once dominated by men (the clue was in the old name) is now split almost 50:50 by gender. It is one of the eight recognised branches of the legal profession – Costs Lawyers are authorised persons under
the Legal Services Act 2007 with independent rights
to conduct litigation and advocacy, and subject to independent regulation by the Costs Lawyer Standards Board (CLSB). Its chair is David Heath, a former MP and minister in the coalition government.
The ACL has a seat at the table in all the major decisions on costs – I was on the Civil Justice Council working group that recently issued a major report on the future direction of costs – and is actively growing its influence further. In the spring, Lord Justice Birss, the deputy head of civil justice, Master Cook, His Honour Judge Lethem and various other eminent figures from the costs world took part in an ACL roundtable to reflect on a decade of costs management.
It all forms part of the ACL Council’s focus on modernisation, engagement and representation. While they have to be regulated by the CLSB, Costs Lawyers do not have to be members of the ACL and so we recognise that we need to provide reasons to become one. That more are joining tells us we are heading in the right direction.
The chance to influence our work and engagement with the wider costs world is an important reason, I think – put bluntly, we have access that practitioners do not.
We are stepping up the activities of regional networking groups and have created special interest groups to focus on particular areas of practice.
We are looking to enhance CPD opportunities – on top of our amazingly well-attended London and Manchester conferences each year – while there are also various member benefits, such as the Costs Lawyer Journal, access to the Croner Business Support Advice Line
and discounts from a range of retailers, including legal bookseller Hammicks.
The big development this year is the launch of the Costs Lawyer Professional Qualification, the new course run by our training arm, ACL Training. It’s a two-year, part- time, online course in a modular format that provides students with greater flexibility in completing the course. In the coming months, those unsure about committing to the full course, or who want to develop specific
areas of their costs knowledge, will be able to apply to complete individual modules.
The period of qualifying work experience students need is two years as well and can be done before, during or after the course. Both elements were previously three years. There are various exemptions that those with other qualifications and existing experience can claim and I believe the CLSB’s new training rules open up the profession in an extremely positive way.
Speaking at an ACL event to mark Social Mobility Day
in June, Mr Heath explained how he was “always really impressed at the skill set” of Costs Lawyers. “It’s a very relatable set of skills that can be used in a variety of contexts... I want to see Costs Lawyers in the judiciary. There is absolutely no reason why there shouldn’t be. Not just in terms of costs cases, but in the wider context. I want to see Costs Lawyers using their skills as non- executive directors because they have very, very valuable skills in that context.”
This is a dynamic period for the costs world. The extension of fixed costs in October will reduce the amount of work to some degree but equally the Civil Justice Council report confirmed the importance of costs management. Costs Lawyers are also increasingly deploying their skills more broadly in project management and other roles, as a clear understanding of how litigation works and costs is proving valuable.
It’s a great time to be a Costs Lawyer and I am confident that, working together, the ACL and the profession will go from strength to strength.
         Jack Ridgway, Chair of the Association of Costs Lawyers.
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