Frequently asked questions
How a Costs Lawyer can help you
Costs Lawyers are experts in the area of legal costs law and practice. Legal costs might include:
- the fees that you pay for legal advice
- the cost of bringing or defending court proceedings
- costs incurred by other parties to court proceedings that you might have to pay if you lose
These costs can be high and the law on legal costs is complex. Costs Lawyers can therefore represent your interests and help you make informed decisions.
You might need a Costs Lawyers if you have concerns about the fees you have been charged by a legal professional, such as a barrister or solicitor. Costs Lawyers can also provide advice at the time you enter into a contract with a legal adviser, including “no win no fee” arrangements.
Costs Lawyers deal with all sorts of costs issues. Examples of services they can provide include:
- Advising on the charging and recovery of legal costs and disbursements (such as fees paid to an expert, for example).
- Advising on litigation funding.
- Preparing costs budgets.
- Preparing discussion documents to inform the court on budget issues.
- Preparing schedules of costs.
- Preparing bills of costs for provisional/detailed assessment by the court.
- Preparing points of dispute on a bill of costs and replies.
- Representing you in negotiations aimed at settling disputes about costs without the need for a court hearing, including mediation.
- Attending court as your advocate on costs matters, such as at a detailed assessment hearing.
- Acting as an expert witness on legal costs matters.
- Advising on legal aid costs.
In multi-track cases commenced after 1 April 2013 in either the County Court or High Court, all parties (except litigants in person) are ordinarily required to file budgets setting out their costs to date and estimated costs for each stage in the proceedings. This is known as costs budgeting or costs management and Costs Lawyers can assist with all aspects of this process, as well as revising costs budgets throughout the course of litigation.
Alternatively, you might wish to challenge the fees charged by your solicitor or barrister, and a Costs Lawyer can help you do this.
Yes. Costs Lawyers work for all types of clients, including individuals, small businesses, large businesses and other professionals. You don’t need to go through a solicitor or barrister to instruct a Costs Lawyer.
What a Costs Lawyer can’t do
No. Costs Lawyers must not accept a client’s money, unless this is in payment of the Costs Lawyer’s fees or to reimburse the Costs Lawyer for disbursements. A Costs Lawyer should always raise an invoice for their professional fees before they take any payment from you. This is designed to protect you and your money. Costs Lawyers are permitted to use a service called a third party managed account (TPMA) to help manage funds relating to your case. A TPMA is an account held at a bank or building society in the name of a third party, where that third party is an authorised payment institution. Accordingly, a Costs Lawyer who uses a TPMA does not handle your money directly. When using a TPMA, your Costs Lawyer should make you aware of the relevant terms and conditions and tell you about any fees or charges involved.
Some Costs Lawyers work in law firms that are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. Those Costs Lawyers can accept your money “on account” (i.e. other than for invoiced professional fees or disbursements), because the law firm will have special bank accounts (called client accounts) where your money will be stored and there is a fund that provides compensation if something goes wrong.
A Costs Lawyer’s right to conduct litigation and represent you in court is limited to issues that relate to costs. An issue “relates to costs” if it relates to payment for legal representation (including pro bono representation) or payments relating to bringing or defending legal proceedings.
A costs lawyer can therefore represent you in challenging costs charged to you by a solicitor, but not to the extent that you want to allege your solicitor was negligent. In that case, a lawyer with expertise in dealing with negligence claims should be instructed instead. This is set out in the Costs Lawyer Code of Conduct.
Choosing a regulated Costs Lawyer
Costs Lawyers can do certain things that unregulated advisers can’t do and using a regulated Costs Lawyer offers special protections for clients.
Costs Lawyers are authorised to do three reserved legal activities (assuming those activities relate to legal costs): they have the right to conduct litigation, represent their clients in court and administer oaths. By instructing a regulated Costs Lawyer, you give yourself the best chance of ensuring that your costs adviser can handle all costs aspects of your case.
Unlike unregulated advisers, Costs Lawyers have to meet certain professional standards at all times.
- They must complete the Costs Lawyer Qualification, which is a three-year Level 6 course, and keep up their training and development throughout their career.
- They must treat you fairly and follow a Code of Conduct for ethical behaviour.
- They must comply with our regulatory rules.
- If things go wrong, they must be covered by appropriate insurance and will have a procedure in place to deal with any complaints that might arise.
- As their client, you have the right to escalate a complaint to the Legal Ombudsman.
- If a Costs Lawyer has not met their professional obligations, you can complain to us and we have the power to take disciplinary action.
The mark of regulation is a logo indicating that a Costs Lawyer is regulated by the Costs Lawyer Standards Board. It can be used by Costs Lawyers as a badge of professionalism and ethical standards. You can see the mark at the bottom of this webpage. Look out for it when choosing a costs adviser.
Certain circumstances might lead us to impose conditions on a Costs Lawyer’s right to practise. A Costs Lawyer is not permitted to practise unless they comply with the conditions, until the conditions expire or are lifted. Examples of conditions include a limitation on the type of services the Costs Lawyer can provide, a requirement to do extra training or a requirement to provide information to us at regular intervals.
Conditions can be imposed as part of a disciplinary sanction (if the Costs Lawyer breaches our rules) or following disclosure by the Costs Lawyer of a matter that could impact their professional standing (like bankruptcy or a criminal offence). If the Register of Costs Lawyers indicates there are conditions on a Costs Lawyer’s right to practise, you can find more information on our disciplinary outcomes page.
Finding a Costs Lawyer
As a regulator, we can’t recommend any particular Costs Lawyer to an individual client. However, the profession’s representative body – the Association of Costs Lawyers (ACL) – might be able to help you find a Costs Lawyer who has specialist experience on a particular issue. You can contact ACL via their website.
Some Costs Lawyers, known as sole practitioners, work for themselves. Others work for costs law firms, which are organisations that specialise in costs law and practice, or within firms of solicitors. A small number of Costs Lawyers work in companies or government departments and advise their employer (rather than external clients) on costs matters.
Once you have found a Costs Lawyer
When you instruct a Costs Lawyer, you should receive a client care letter which will set out information about the relationship. This will include: the basis of your instruction, who will carry out the work, their fees, the right to terminate the relationship and the process for making complaints. It is important that you receive and understand the client care letter, as it is a binding contract between you and your Costs Lawyer. If you don’t understand something in the letter, make sure you ask.
Costs Lawyers must adhere to our Code of Conduct and other regulatory rules. You can expect your Costs Lawyer to treat you fairly, behave professionally and act in your interests.