New costs lawyer chief targets solicitors

Heining: it is surprising that solicitors take such risks

The new chairman of the Association of Costs Lawyers (ACL) has pledged to launch a campaign that will highlight to solicitors the risks to their own income of not using a fully qualified and regulated costs professional.

Murray Heining, who practises on his own account, took over as chairman at this month’s ACL Annual Conference. He warned solicitors that they are shouldering all the risk if they use unqualified costs draftsmen – ACL-qualified Costs Lawyers, by contrast, have full indemnity insurance, are independently regulated and are subject to the jurisdiction of the Legal Ombudsman.

He said: “It is surprising that solicitors take such risks when it comes to securing their costs, although we suspect that this is simply because they do not appreciate that the person holding themselves out as a costs expert does not have the credentials to back up their claim. We intend to put that right by explaining that as professional people, solicitors should only deal with other professionals.”

Mr Heining’s areas of practice include legal aid and as well as launching the ACL’s legal aid group earlier this year, he recently helped established a formal relationship between the ACL and the Legal Aid Practitioners Group, along with ACL colleague Sue Nash.

He said the ACL will take a more active role in the law reform debate. “Costs lawyers are often at the sharp end of dealing with the Legal Services Commission and it is time our voice was heard on how the reform agenda will truly impact law firms.”

Other plans include an expanded programme of training events for members across the country, revision to the training regime to qualify as a costs lawyer, a new category of ‘affiliate’ membership for those with an interest in costs but are not in competition with full members – such as judges – and greater support for members, including the appointment of an independent ethics adviser.

Mr Heining added: “The new council of the ACL has benefited from the work and successes of its predecessor and that has allowed us set major goals for the association in the coming year. I am very optimistic that we can achieve them as we build on our position as the legal profession’s costs specialists.”