Legal Cost Specialists

Fellow Costs Lawyer

The Association of Costs Lawyers (ACL) is consulting on creating a new membership category: Fellow Costs Lawyer.

I fear there is some muddled thinking behind this.

The right to use the term “Costs Lawyer” comes from completing the relevant training and holding a current practising certificate issued by the Costs Lawyer Standards Board (CLSB). All Costs Lawyers are regulated by the CLSB.

The ACL is the representative body for Costs Lawyers. However, there is no requirement for Costs Lawyers to be members of the ACL or pay the ACL membership fee. Many Costs Lawyers are not members.

The new category of Fellow Costs Lawyer would be open to “Cost Lawyer members with over eight years’ post-qualification experience that have shown a long-term commitment to the Association”. The purpose is presumably to encourage Costs Lawyers to join the ACL and so be entitled to use this “enhanced” title.

However, the title “Costs Lawyer” is not within the gift of the ACL. How can a body (here the ACL) moderate/enhance a legal title that is does not control?

(Interestingly, the title “Costs Lawyer” itself is not a protected one unlike, for example, “solicitor”. It is not clear there is any obvious enforcement route to prevent the inappropriate use of the title. There may be consumer protection routes to stop those who do not possess a practising certificate from using the title. As Costs Lawyers are regulated and have certain rights to conduct costs litigation, it would no doubt be a serious matter to mislead a court that someone was a Costs Lawyer when they were not. It is not clear how the ACL proposes it will police the title “Fellow Costs Lawyer”.)

There is also a regulatory issue here. The proposed title “Fellow Costs Lawyer” is clearly intended to convey the impression of a more experienced/skilled practitioner than a simple “Costs Lawyer”. Has the CLSB been consulted on this or expressed a view? The new category will not be regulated. Clearly, any Fellow Costs Lawyer would be regulated by the CLSB the same as any other Costs Lawyer. However, the new category would not be regulated any differently, or at all, by the CLSB. There is no doubt that the CLSB itself could decide to create a new category of Costs Lawyer and might choose the term “Fellow Costs Lawyer”. However, it must be questionable as to whether it is appropriate for the representative body to attempt to do this. What are the CLSB’s views on how this new title might be perceived by the general public? The ACL is suggesting that this new title would only be available to members of the ACL and, in part, to recognise those who have “shown a long-term commitment to the Association”. The new title would only recognise a sub-category of members of the ACL. Would this be obvious to the public?

Surely the answer is to instead create a new membership category of “Fellow of the Association of Costs Lawyers”. Just a suggestion.

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