During the heyday of the costs negotiating industry, the Association of Law Costs Draftsmen, as it was, held discussions with a number of the major costs negotiating firms to explore the idea of employees of those firms joining the Association. This was back at the height of the costs wars and before the introduction of the predicable costs regime when that part of “industry” was at its peak. The Association had a chance to become truly representative of a far larger proportion of the costs profession/industry than it then was. (At a rough estimate, it represented less than 10% of those working in costs.) I attended a joint meeting with other costs firm and representatives from the Association as I was, at the time, a senior manager with one of the major costs negotiating firms. Although the discussions were positive, nothing further happened.
When the issue was subsequently resurrected, I wrote to the Association and the letter was subsequently published in the ALCD Journal (see letter). This is all the way back in June 2003. In the event, the Association decided to maintain membership requirements and continued to limit membership to traditional law costs draftsmen.
Close observers of almost any organisation will notice the same debates are endlessly repeated every few years. (Back in 2011 I stood for election to the ACL Council with a manifesto including: “Make membership of the association something that all costs professionals aspire to and so increase our membership”.)
The latest issue of Costs Lawyer magazine includes the following from ACL Chairman Iain Stark:
“your elected members of Council, after a period of reflection, have determined that the Association as it currently stands is not in a position to respond to members’ needs going forward. The brief for the future must be to grow the membership and represent all those at the coal face of legal costs, funding and management, while not diluting the hard work undertaken to date to secure a regulated community.”
Here we are again, although against a very different background and outlook.
Growing the membership to represent a broader proportion of those working in the costs world is a very sound proposal. Indeed, it may be the only way for the ACL to survive if there is a major extension of fixed fees.
Nevertheless, I wonder if this particular ship has already sailed. Back in the day, the ALCD/ACL could have become a truly representative body of a large and thriving costs community and been an important lobbying body. Times have now moved on and even if it were possible for the ACL to sign up overnight all those working in costs and related areas (possibly expanding membership ten-fold or more) I doubt the ACL would be able to meaningfully influence the current direction of events. The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers has a membership of 3,800 but failed to stop the changes to recoverability of additional liabilities and will be equally ignored when it comes to the issue of whiplash reform and extension to fixed fees (however comprehensively its views are recorded by the powers that be).