New legal regulator takes the reins


Stark: coming-of-age for the Costs Lawyer profession

The professional standards of costs lawyers will in future be independently assured after the Costs Lawyer Standards Board (CLSB) this week became their approved regulator.

The CLSB formally took on its role on 31 October 2011 after the Association of Costs Lawyers (ACL) delegated its regulatory role to the five-person CLSB board. The ACL is the sixth and final approved regulator under the Legal Services Act 2007 that needed to separate its regulatory and representative functions.

The ACL said that as a result, solicitors and others using costs lawyers know they are dealing with independently regulated professionals who come within the jurisdiction of the Legal Ombudsman on service complaints and the CLSB on professional conduct complaints. Costs lawyers also enjoy independent rights of audience and to conduct litigation.

The term ‘costs draftsman’ now effectively denotes an unregulated and unqualified person operating in costs, and those who instruct costs draftsmen have no recourse to either the Legal Ombudsman or the CLSB.

The regulatory work of the CLSB includes setting and maintaining education and training requirements for new entrants to the profession; continuing professional development; and maintaining a standard of professional conduct amongst costs lawyers.

ACL chairman Iain Stark said: “This is a hugely significant event for costs lawyers everywhere: for the first time since the Association was formed in 1977, costs lawyers will have an independent regulatory body. It marks the coming-of-age for the profession and we must look to the future and embrace the reforms by diversifying and utilising our status as costs lawyers.”

The CLSB board, which has a lay majority as required by the Legal Services Board, is chaired by Graham Aitken, a chartered accountant for more than 30 years. He is an experienced chairman, director, senior manager and management consultant, as well as a magistrate on the Trafford bench.

CLSB chief executive Lynn Plumbley said: “Getting the CLSB to the point of being ‘fit for purpose’ to undertake the role of regulator has been a long process, but we achieved it within the timescale agreed with the ACL. We now look forward to working with costs lawyers to ensure not just regulatory compliance but an increased standing of the profession within the legal community.”

Costs lawyers can become partners in legal disciplinary practices and some have done so since they were introduced in March 2009. The ACL changed its name from the Association of Law Costs Draftsmen earlier this year.

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