Jack Ridgway formally takes over as Chair of the Association of Costs Lawyers (ACL) today, with David Bailey-Vella and Stephen Averill as co-Vice-Chairs. Stephanie Donald has been appointed treasurer.
An Associate Costs Lawyer at London firm Bolt Burdon Kemp, Mr Ridgway said the first 12 months of his three-year term would be a “foundational year” that would put down the roots of the ACL’s future. He distilled these as “modernisation, engagement and representation”.
The first was a case of administrative changes – such as in the ACL office, articles and bye-laws – that he described as “good hygiene measures to turn us into a 21st century organisation”.
There needed to be better engagement with members, he went on. Around 35% of Costs Lawyers are not members of the ACL, and it was the Council’s job to reach out to them and their employers to demonstrate the value of membership.
This in turn would increase the funds available to the ACL and enable it to do more, although he stressed that the ACL was in a good financial position, despite the impact of Covid.
Proving the value of membership was linked directly to representation. Mr Ridgway said: “We’re a representative body and I think our members want to see more.”
While the ACL has responded to government and other consultations, the new Chair said there needed to be more engagement with the wider legal world, explaining why people should be instructing and employing Costs Lawyers at a time of ever-greater complexity in costs. Unlike costs draftsmen, Costs Lawyers are fully qualified and regulated, with requirements for professional indemnity insurance and access to the Legal Ombudsman like other branches of the legal profession.
The ACL already has good links with all of its key stakeholders, such as the Civil Justice Council and Senior Courts Costs Office. “But we need to build on those relationships and make sure our voice is heard more loudly,” Mr Ridgway said.
What helped a lot, he went on, was that the Costs Lawyer Standards Board was being well led by chair David Heath and chief executive Kate Wellington, while ACL Training – which runs the course to qualify as a Costs Lawyer – now has a new board in place, chaired by renowned legal educator Sarah Hutchinson.
“For the first time, all three arms of the profession are pulling in the same direction. The CLSB is increasingly active and we should be too. There are a lot of areas where our work can be complementary.
“This unity makes my life easier in terms of focusing on representation and engaging with the membership. I’m sure we can deliver a more compelling membership offer.”
He went on to praise his new-look Council. “Council is in a really good place, with everyone motivated to get involved and spread the word,” he said. “I see the chair as the first among equals and it is important to have confidence in my fellow Council members to take on some of the responsibility.”
Mr Ridgway began working in costs in 2011, joining Bolt Burdon Kemp as a trainee Costs Lawyer in 2015, qualifying in 2017.
He praised the firm for “always been supportive of me”, including in taking on the ACL post.
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Notes to editors:
Association of Costs Lawyers
The Association of Costs Lawyers (ACL) is a membership body representing and promoting the status and interests of Cost Lawyers in England and Wales. Founded in 1977, the Association was granted authorised body status in 2007 and is a front-line regulator, able to authorise its members to undertake the reserved legal activities of litigation and advocacy. In recognition of this new-found status, ACL changed its name from the Association of Law Costs Draftsmen in 2011. Costs Lawyers are regulated by the Costs Lawyer Standards Board. www.costslawyer.co.uk
The term ‘costs draftsman’ 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 Costs Lawyer Standards Board.