Who we are

The Costs Lawyer Standards Board, or CLSB, is the regulator of Costs Lawyers in England and Wales. We exist to serve the public interest by setting and maintaining the standards of professional conduct by which Costs Lawyers must abide.

We are constituted as a private company (Costs Lawyer Standards Board Ltd), but our purpose is not to make a profit. We are funded by the Costs Lawyers that we regulate through the collection of an annual practising fee. All of our income is used for regulatory purposes.

Our activities are governed by the Legal Services Act 2007. Under the Act, we have a duty to promote eight regulatory objectives:

  • Protecting and promoting the public interest
  • Supporting the constitutional principle of the rule of law
  • Improving access to justice
  • Protecting and promoting the interests of consumers of legal services
  • Promoting competition in the provision of legal services
  • Encouraging an independent, strong, diverse and effective legal profession
  • Increasing public understanding of the citizen’s legal rights and duties
  • Promoting and maintaining adherence to the professional principles (which are set out in the Act)

Our activities are scrutinised by an oversight regulator, the Legal Services Board.

How we regulate

Our mission is to: “provide effective, proportionate regulation of Costs Lawyers in a way that promotes consumer choice and understanding, and engenders justified public trust”.

We are a small regulator, funded by the practitioners that we regulate. It is therefore essential that we put our funds to work in an efficient and impactful way, identifying key areas of risk within the profession and targeting these to achieve the best possible outcomes for consumers of Costs Lawyers’ services and the wider public.

You can see the information about Costs Lawyers on the Regulated Professions Register.

You can read more about how we fulfil our mission, as well as our organisational goals for 2020 to 2023, in our Mid-term Strategy.

In 2021, we made a commitment to focusing on a set of defined consumer outcomes in all of our regulatory work. You can read more about our approach in our policy statement on good consumer outcomes.

We have also published a guide that describes how we follow the Regulators’ Code.

What we do

On a day-to-day basis, we are responsible for regulatory activities such as:

  • Establishing policy, rules and guidance in relation to the professional conduct expected of Costs Lawyers
  • Supervising compliance with our regulatory requirements
  • Dealing with complaints about Costs Lawyers’ conduct and taking disciplinary action where a Costs Lawyer’s conduct falls short of the required standard
  • Helping consumers and the wider public understand issues relating to legal costs and how Costs Lawyers can assist them
  • Assisting practitioners in navigating ethical issues and treating their clients fairly
  • Gathering evidence and data about all aspects of the regulated market to inform our activities

CLSB and the Association of Costs Lawyers

The CLSB is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Association of Costs Lawyers (ACL). ACL is the profession’s representative body and it is named in the Legal Services Act 2007 as the approved regulator of the Costs Lawyer profession. However, as a representative body, it must delegate its regulatory functions to another organisation. It has therefore delegated its regulatory functions to the CLSB.

Despite being a subsidiary of ACL, the CLSB operates entirely independently of ACL and ACL does not interfere with the CLSB’s regulatory activities. The CLSB is responsible for establishing its own budget, strategy, governance structures and regulatory arrangements.

This level of independence is required under the Legal Services Board’s Internal Governance Rules. ACL’s only remaining regulatory role is to ensure compliance with the Internal Governance Rules and to seek assurance from the CLSB that the CLSB is complying with its obligations under the Legal Services Act. Each organisation’s roles and responsibilities are set out in a Memorandum of Understanding and Operational Protocol between the two bodies. This MOU was last reviewed in June 2023.

Regulatory history

The Association of Law Costs Draftsmen (ALCD) was founded in 1977 with the object of promoting the status and interests of the profession and ensuring high professional standards. ALCD was designated as an authorised body for the purposes of sections 27 and 28 of the Courts and Legal Services Act 1990 under the Association of Law Costs Draftsmen Order 2006 (SI 2006/3333) which came into effect on 1 January 2007. When the Legal Services Act 2007 came into force, ALCD became an approved regulator pursuant to section 20(2).

On 1 January 2011, ALCD changed its name to the Association of Costs Lawyers, or ACL. The Costs Lawyer Standards Board was established to enable ACL to separate its representative role from its regulatory role in accordance with the requirements of the Legal Services Act.

Since 31 October 2011, the CLSB has undertaken the role of approved regulator of the Costs Lawyer profession under delegated authority from ACL.