Legal Cost Specialists

Costs Lawyers v Law Costs Draftsmen

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.

48 thoughts on “Costs Lawyers v Law Costs Draftsmen”

  1. It is a good idea but the issue is going to get hotter and hotter with the smear ongoing smear campaign – might be hard for you to ignore.

    I am personally fed up with it now anyway – let them spend all their money in their hate campaign.

    What goes around comes around as they say, so they might (hopefully) see a dramatic exodus of members once it is clear there are no benefits of CL status, publicity in relation to struck off Costs Lawyers (which will breed mistrust of costs lawyers) and appreciation by solicitors that experience is king, not the costs lawyer status.

  2. thank you Simon, well done!

    Im sure the ACL members paying their fees will be delighted such will be used to fund a public campaign to besmirch non costs lawyers. So nice that the ACL can devote their time too, to trying to undermine, rather than offer guidance at this crucial time.

    As several solicitor clients have remarked, “do these people realise how desperate they sound??”

  3. It will be very interesting to see where we are in two years time regarding the interpretation and practical implementation of the new Rules, the amount of work available and the status of the ACL. Will there be many more costs draftsmen/costs lawyers or many less? Will lesser mortals be shoved aside by people with law degrees who cannot obtain a training contract or pupillage?

    Exciting times.

  4. Some barristers engender professional respect because they are clearly very good at what they do. And some don’t.

    Some solicitors engender professional respect because they are clearly very good at what they do. And some don’t.

    Some costs lawyers……..

    Never mind the title – just be good at what you do. That’s the only thing which generates respect from other professionals, and believe me, it does.

  5. Re Annon

    Another definition for Simon’s alternative legal costs dictionary:

    Costs Lawyer – A law graduate who could not obtain a pupillage or training contract.

  6. I can answer them burning questions, down to my crystal ball that I utilise to prepare my costs budgets.

    There will be the same amount of draftsmen, but completing different work i.e. budgeting and associated disputes.

    Costs lawyers will decrease as it will become clear that people do not need to pretend they have costs qualifications/moral fibre after Jackson as there will be more demand than ever.

  7. Captain Costs Man

    I feel almost obligated to point out the irony:

    In almost every other recent article the first couple of posts erupt into a, usually somewhat aggressive, CL v CD debate; yet when Simon posts an article solely for that purpose there is no aggression, provocation or argument!

    We costs people are a funny sort…

  8. @ CCM – where are the ACL bloggers hiding now then? in their ivory towers still

    as usual Simon is the only ACL member with the honesty to write constructively (including his own provocotive comments on occaision) about the issue.

    and as usual, the vitriol from the ACL dries up when they are challenged to support their stance and comments

  9. The reason the vitriol has dried up is that, unlike Anonymous and Anonymosity, the average CL is not as mad as a box of frogs.

  10. Annon on August 6th, 2013 5:11 pm

    Your comment is flawed and arrogant on so many levels, and is really indicative of the views of the ACL collective who are so blinded by their perceived sense of grandiosity they cannot see through the mist of their enormous egos to be honest with themselves.

    Any attempt at reasoned argument most therefore be counter-pleaded as defective due to insanity!

    I cannot be bothered to write any more posts on here. Although Simon has prepared a very good post, he has bowed to the pressure of the ACL in censoring comments.

    What ever next. I think they might be quiet at the moment as they are working round the clock on attempting to reserve white books so that only costs lawyers can buy one or refer to one at an assessment hearing…

  11. @ annon 6.08 5.11
    No, they’re not. To be mad, one requires intellect and some emotion. The average CL has neither, as evidenced by their totally inane belief that they have a right to work, in preference to people actually able to do the job, just because they either “shook hands” to become a Fellow years ago, or sat in a room through a stupid lecture believing THAT would confer upon them the ability to be an advocate!!

    The history of the ACL( including the ALCD) is shameful in how it has elevated its members on a whim to suit, and it is remarkable how it can sit there and self-promote its virtuosity and the ability of its members as in any way “superior” to anyone else in the profession. Again the question, how many of these “superior” Defendant CL’s, can even draw a bill?? Particularly as virtually every bill ever seen from a Defendant “costs specialist” claiming adverse costs, is so poor as to warrant application to strike out

    ANYONE can call themselves a Cost Lawyer.Anyone can get professional indemnity insurance. Any fool whom subscribes to paying fees to the ACL , so they can self-promote the fallacy that only Cost Lawyers can draw bills, should just continue admiring themselves in the mirror, while the real world and work , gets attended to by those with actual sense and ability

  12. The ACL aren’t taking any new trainees till September 2014, supposedly because of the reforms this year. Lets be honest the days of the ACL and the Costs Lawyer are numbered.

    Soon enough most firms will have a small team of Costs Draftsmen and trainees/paralegals will be preparing budgets once Solicitors clock on to the fact that it’s mostly guess work.

    I find it laughable to think that a Costs Draftsman/Costs Lawyer would have more insight into the litigation process and therefore a better ability to draw an accurate budget than the people who deal with the actual litigation on a daily basis.

    I haven’t been in Costs very long but I would advise any young draftsman to have a back up plan and not to waste 3 years on a pointless qualification.

  13. @ cost loser

    your soon-departure from the profession will be greeted with not even a ripple. Your negativity will be gladly removed.

    please continue laughing to your cleaners job, whilst us professional draftsmen continue to assist solicitors in understanding not just the litigastion process, but how every aspect of it knits together, and at the heart of it all, is costs. Jackson saw that, which is why he went after costs reforms, not a rewrite of the system. Solicitors dont see that (yet) as they have never been steeped in the costs process and why it is so vital to understand in the context of the work being carried out. Draftsmen reach the stage, if they are bright enough and open their eyes to look beyond just the figures on the bill, where they see every aspect of all types of litigation; are obliged to know the majority of the CPR, Solicitors Act et al to better present or attack costs; see every type of claim; and use that knowledge to see how the whole system works.

    Mr Loser, you are aptly named, ill informed, and deserve no further time

  14. @Anonymous

    I’ll continue to laugh at you when you are made redundant can’t find another job and live the rest of your life on JSA. Whilst I will have a whole new career and won’t be claiming a penny from the government.

    You mistake a realistic outlook as negativity, but please continue to keep your head in the sand. Everyone I have met in the profession who has an opinion that is actually worth something has said the same thing, costs is dying. We will see for the next 3-5 years the run out of Pre-jackson work and detailed assessments, during that time Budgeting will become almost exclusively in house.

    Your arrogance is hilarious, I would like to see how well you would handle a high value piece of commercial litigation from cradle to grave, because you claim to know so much about the litigation process. I would also like to see how accurately you would be able to budget for it. My guess is that you wouldn’t have the first clue because you aren’t a qualified Solicitor with real litigation experience, all you have ever done is look at a file after the substantive work is concluded and count the letters.

  15. Costs Draftsperson

    And still the CLSB tells outright untruths on its site in respect to the’qualifications’ of costs lawyers….when will the LSB do something about this?

  16. Anonymous of the NW

    @Costs Loser

    The future of the profession is indeed uncertain, however I don’t think anybody is in a position to present such statements as fact.

    You admit that you haven’t been in costs for long, therefore I would make the assumption that you have only had experience of limited aspects of costs. Surely you cannot believe that your viewpoint is more valid than long term practitioners who have seen many changes over the years (pre CPR panic anyone?).

    I find it a bit odd that you call other people arrogant, when both your comments smack of arrogance. What’s with the first paragraph of your second comment? What’s your problem?

    A back up option is sensible, but I think that applies to most careers. If you don’t see any value or future in costs, that’s fine, but don’t come and tell everyone who reads this blog that you know what is going to happen and that they are wrong. If you truly believe you can predict what’s going to happen as accurately as you seem to think, then surely you will be highly proficient at preparing budgets and will not have to worry about a lack of work.

  17. I heard ”costs losers” is the nickname for ”costs lawyers” in the broader legal community i.e. failed solicitors who are desperately trying to fool everyone, including themselves, that their qualifications were not a complete waste of time and money….

  18. I hear on the grapevine, that the current drive to have one regulatory board governing all legal services, will make the CLSB defunct, and the only “requirement” to practise costs, will be to register with the new regulator.

    and so what of the CL’s, be they those who “interviewed” or were “elevated”, or actually did the course properly?? will they still be so elitist and arrogant?? will they ask for their ACL fees back 😉

  19. Currently there is no requirement for Costs Lawyers to be members of the ACL. There is a fee to pay to the CLSB to have a practising certificate and it is then optional as to whether to pay an additional fee to the ACL to be a member of that.

  20. Simon, or any other CL, would you care to comment on the practice of the ACL therefore in making representations on behalf of all CL’s, when as you say, CL’s do not actually have to be in the ACL? And if, as the previous poster suggests, Regulation is to be moved to one “super” Regulatory body thereby removing the CLSB altogether, what will the point and purpose of the ACL be? Indded, what is its purpose now, other than to declare the use of its subscribers fees to attach non members (surely that must include CL’s whom do not subscribe??)

  21. Remarkable silence from the ACLU & CLs generally in this post, especially in respect of the last few posts

    Kinda proves the point, just all hot air and rhetoric they spout, and when it comes down to real debate, they are as useful as their made up qualification

  22. Costs Monkeywrench

    I’m a draftsman with only 2 years experience, I’m quite happy as a draftsman and am learning all the time from those around me. In the last year I have developed a fair amount and now deal with some quite high value com lit matters.

    As someone who isn’t a particularly confident public speaker I can’t see myself benefiting from being a Costs Lawyer as it is unlikely that I would ever be a good advocate. I know you don’t have to be a Costs Lawyer to be an advocate but from what I have been reading some people do like to challenge the rights of audience of unqualified Draftsmen.

    I’m quite happy drafting bills and will happily continue doing so until a regulation is passed to say I cannot without some sort of formal qualification.

  23. Question – as Costs Lawyers can place themselves on the court record, accept service of proceedings, have rights of audience etc if anyone can call themselves a Costs Lawyer, only certain Costs Lawyers are going to be able to carry out these functions, how is this going to work?

  24. The major advantage of becoming a Costs Lawyer is no longer having to describe yourself as a Costs Draftsman on forms, no one outside the legal profession and indeed many within, knows what a Costs Draftsman is!

  25. @ anonymous09.08 9:45
    It doesn’t work, that’s the point!!

    How many of us have seen Notice of Change served by cost lawyers (one particular Insurers named draftsmen spring to mind) where it is blatantly obvious that the Notice has never been seen by the CL? It’s a cover, a front for the cost monkeys they employ.

    The whole issue of CLs supposedly being better is a complete fallacy, this issue makes the point entirely – frankly, I know many CLs who wouldn’t know HOW to go on record nor what it entails!

    Going on record etc is a reserved practise, which only CLs are supposed to do, so calling yourself one doesn’t enable you to do it yourself. But with the fact CLs can “delegate” as per the above, it makes not one jot of difference!

    Remember, the ACL is spending funds to smear all non ACL members, whom it portrays as useless unqualified cowboys, in its attempt to ring fence solicitors to themselves, and are also petitioning for bill drafting to be a reserved practice too. The practical upshot, is that they will simply “delegate” this to their own cost cowboys they employ.

    So there’s the real deal. CLs aren’t better. They just want to lord it over everyone else so they control and distribute the work to those poor lackeys they employ. Restriction of Free Trade?monopolyism? Call it what you will, the facts remain the same

    Final point. Several posters have asked in various parts of this blog, if only CLs are to be allowed to draw bills, because only they are qualified to do it, then what of Defendant CLs? Where are they? Why doesn’t one single Defendant CL respond and tell us how many bills they draw a week or a year, to demonstrate how wonderful they are at it?

    The deafening silence that will follow, speaks for itself

  26. IF the ACL & CLSB are supposedly representative of the cost drafting profession

    Where does it say they have the power to suspend application for membership for a year?

    Is it written into their laws or constitution? Does their status as regulatory body (CLSB) permit them to do this? I cannot for example imagine the Law Society or any other regulatory body be permitted or have the power to self-suspend membership applications in that fashion

    Particularly at a time when said ACL, publicly announce their lobbying to make bill drafting a reserved activity to cost lawyers, whilst disgracefully making untrue sweeping generalisms regarding non ACL members. The intended net effect being to seek to preclude non cost lawyers from practising their trade, whilst blocking any attempt to have said non cost lawyers applying to join.

    Forgive me for the conclusion, but is this not restraint of trade? Perhaps one of our esteemed learned friends out there would care to comment? Perhaps the ACL or CLSB would care to explain how and why they have the authority to take these actions, especially where as Mr Gibbs has himself pointed out, membership of the ACL is not mandatory for cost lawyers, and thus they are not even representative of all cost lawyers?

  27. I agree, it is very odd that the ACL have suspended membership.

    However that aside, whilst speaking as a “hallowed Costs Lawyer”, I think everyone should stop getting their knickers in a twist, drafting bills is never going to become a reserved activity.

  28. If you’re good at what you do and your clients value your service, then it simply does not matter whether you have attained Costs Lawyer status or not.

    I am not a costs Lawyer but regularly attend detailed assessment hearings on behalf of paying parties. I have been up against some truly appalling and on the other hand excellent qualified and non-qualified Costs Lawyers. Costs Lawyer status in my experience does not always guarantee quality or skill.

    If I were minded to choose a qualification, I would go the Legal Exec route all day long. Pigeon holing oneself into costs in the changing legal landscape does not seem like a good idea at all.

  29. the Defendant CL’s , pro CL and ACL comments on this blog as expected have dried up suddenly..

    reminds me of that Simon and Garfunkel song…..what was the line about blowhards again??

  30. @ anonymous 4.53pm

    you are in an identical position to many whom read and post here, and have served the profession excellently over the years.

    the problem, is the ACL insistence on telling people publicly people such as yourself are unqualified, unregulated, and basically, useless. They do so in support of their campaign to have bill drafting restricted only to CL’s. They do so knowing they have stopped people such as yourself even having the option of joining the ACL, thus keeping the work to themselves in their current restricted numbers.

    Clients will recognise good and bad, but if the freedom of choce is taklen from them??

  31. Where have all the CL’s gone into hiding?

    Funny when they are given opportunity to have a proper debate, rather than just sit smugly crowing about how they are “qualified”, that they all go quiet

    I suggest whenever they apear in digital press from now on, a post is made with a link to this blog page

  32. How many Costs Lawyers actually “smugly crown” about being qualified, I don’t, I just attempt to get on with my job, as a Costs Lawyer, but I don’t care if I’m called a Costs Draftsman!?

  33. Well it’s official

    CL’s as expected when given the opportunity to demonstrate their ‘superiority’ in a debate forum, skulk off back into their padded rooms where they can burble “my precious” at their framed ACL practising certificates

    I had an interesting discussion after a hearing the other day with the DJ and Counsel in court, off the tape of course, and both expressed concern at the shocking range of inconsistency in presentation in advocacy by CL’s in their experience. The comment made pointedly, was that sitting through a little seminar and paying a fee, , and then believing you can do advocacy at all, is delusional on a grand scale

    I didn’t have the heart to tell them the Fellowship admission by interview or promotion of Associates automatically when the ACL formed just to make up the numbers

  34. I understand that the ACL Council are planning to publish an all-out article on the dangers of instructing a Costs Draftsman in their forthcoming magazine. This will no doubt be repeated in the ACL’s sock puppet, Litigation Futures.

  35. I hope they do

    I for one will be responding, and pointing out their sad history and route to “qualification”

  36. well its published, and not one comment from here

    pathetic, you’ll squabble over tuppence in a bill, but not one of you raise your voice to the ACL trying to monopolise a profession they dont even accurately represent

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