Complain about a Costs Lawyer

Initial steps if you have a complaint

If you’re not satisfied with any aspect of the service you have received from your Costs Lawyer, the first thing to do is raise the matter with the Costs Lawyer involved, or with the firm in which they work. In many cases, an issue can be resolved by talking things through and agreeing a way forward.

Sometimes informal resolution will not solve the problem and you might want to make a more formal complaint. All Costs Lawyers are required to have effective procedures in place for the resolution of complaints. Your Costs Lawyer should have provided their complaints procedure to you at key junctures in your relationship. If you don’t have a copy of your Costs Lawyer’s complaints procedure, you can ask for it at any time.

If you want to make a formal complaint, set out in an email or letter why a problem has arisen and what you think the Costs Lawyer could do to resolve it. Refer to the Costs Lawyer’s complaints procedure and make it clear that you expect it to be followed. This way, everyone will understand that the complaint has moved beyond the informal resolution stage.

In most cases, a Costs Lawyer’s complaints procedure will require an internal investigation to be conducted, followed by a decision that will be communicated to you. You should receive a decision within eight weeks of making a complaint. In the event that a complaint is not resolved in that time period, or you are not happy with the resolution, you can refer the complaint to the CLSB or the Legal Ombudsman.

Where to send your complaint

If your complaint has not been resolved to your satisfaction by your Costs Lawyer, you can escalate the complaint to an independent organisation. The nature of your complaint will determine which organisation can consider it. You should refer your complaint to the organisation indicated in the table below. If you’re unsure, you can contact us.

My complaint is about… Complain to… Using the webpage…
The quality of service provided by a Costs Lawyer Legal Ombudsman Bring your complaint to us
The professional conduct of a Costs Lawyer CLSB See details below on this webpage
The conduct of a solicitors’ firm in which a Costs Lawyer works Solicitors Regulation Authority Problems and complaints

Issues with the quality of a Costs Lawyer’s service are dealt with by the Legal Ombudsman. Generally, service issues will result in you being unhappy with an aspect of the work that a Costs Lawyer did for you. This could include problems with the way your Costs Lawyer communicated with you, how long they took to do the work or the amount they charged you, for example.

Issues with a Costs Lawyer’s conduct can be dealt with by either the Legal Ombudsman or the CLSB, but if your complaint relates solely to a conduct issue, you should bring it to the CLSB. Conduct issues include problems like a Costs Lawyer being dishonest with you, disclosing your information without permission, acting in someone else’s interests instead of yours, or otherwise breaking our regulatory rules (such as practising without adequate insurance).

If a complaint concerns both service and conduct issues relating to a Costs Lawyer, it will usually be considered by the Legal Ombudsman in the first instance.

If a complaint relates both to a Costs Lawyer and the solicitors’ firm in which they work, the CLSB will liaise with the Solicitors Regulation Authority to determine which regulator should investigate the matter.

Sometimes people who are not a Costs Lawyer’s client have cause to complain about a Costs Lawyer’s conduct. This might include practitioners on the other side of a dispute. Complaints of this nature should be made to the CLSB in the first instance.

How to complain to the CLSB

If you have a complaint about a Costs Lawyer, you should refer your complaint to the CLSB so long as:

  • It is a complaint about the Costs Lawyer’s professional conduct rather than the quality of service they provided (the latter should be referred to the Legal Ombudsman)
  • You have already complained to the Costs Lawyer and the complaint has not been resolved to your satisfaction within an eight week period
  • No more than a year has passed since the complaint arose or you realised you had cause for complaint
  • The complaint doesn’t relate to matters that are being considered in ongoing court proceedings

In limited circumstances, you can complain to the CLSB about a Costs Lawyer’s conduct before you have exhausted the Costs Lawyer’s own complaints procedure. This is the case if either:

  • You can demonstrate to us that using the Cost Lawyer’s complaints procedure will cause you unfair prejudice; for example,because the Costs Lawyer has closed their business and is not communicating.
  • We decide it is otherwise in the public interest not to require you to exhaust the Costs Lawyer’s own complaints procedure; for example, because the complaint involves credible allegations of very serious misconduct such as dishonesty or failure to insure, which could have an impact on the Costs Lawyer’s other clients or the reputation of the legal profession.

Before referring a complaint to us, please check that your adviser is regulated by the CLSB. You can do this by searching for their name on the Register of Costs Lawyers.

You can make your complaint using our contact form. Please provide as much information as possible when making your complaint. It is helpful to include:

  • The Costs Lawyer’s name and organisation.
  • A description of the Costs Lawyer’s conduct about which you would like to complain.
  • A description of your discussions to date with the Costs Lawyer about the complaint.
  • The date on which the issue arose or you became aware of the issue.

In the context of complaints and disciplinary proceedings, we will usually share personal data about the complainant with the Costs Lawyer involved, and share details of the Costs Lawyer’s response with the complainant. We might also need to share this data with third parties, such as potential witnesses. This is necessary to ensure that a complaint can be investigated fully, fairly and transparently. If you wish to keep certain personal data confidential in this context, you should discuss this with us, but please be aware that this may not be possible if disclosure is required in the public interest.

Outcomes of a complaint to the CLSB

It is important to understand that the CLSB can’t award compensation to complainants. If you believe you have suffered financial loss due to the way a Costs Lawyer has handled your case, then you can seek redress from the Legal Ombudsman. Any issues relating to the Costs Lawyer’s professional conduct can be considered by the CLSB after the Legal Ombudsman has dealt with the case.

The CLSB will investigate whether a Costs Lawyer has breached our regulatory rules, including the Costs Lawyer Code of Conduct. If we find that a breach has occurred, the outcome will be a disciplinary sanction. This can range from a warning letter to a financial penalty or revocation of a Costs Lawyer’s right to practise. More information can be found on our disciplinary outcomes page.

Guidelines for complainants

We will always treat you with courtesy and respect, and we expect you to treat our staff the same way. We will take your complaint seriously and listen carefully to your concerns, but we don’t investigate every complaint raised with us.

You can read more in our guidelines for complainants.