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Allen v Brethertons LLP [2018] EWHC B15 (Costs) - Claire Green, Association of Costs Lawyers

12/06/19. Costs Lawyers may generally operate behind the scenes, but a recent case in the Senior Courts Costs Office provides a useful reminder of our professional status and the important role we play in the resolution of costs disputes.

In Allen v Brethertons LLP [2018] EWHC B15 (Costs), Norman Allen engaged Checkmylegalfees.com, which is not a regulated law firm, to look at what he had been charged. A Costs Lawyer employed by the company, Kerry-Ann Moore, handled the work and at first the defendant law firm ignored her request for copies of documents from its file and instead wrote directly to the client.

In a footnote to his ruling, which dealt with an application to deliver a statute bill, Master Leonard pointed out that, as a Costs Lawyer regulated by the Costs Lawyer Standards Board (CLSB), Ms Moore had the right, in cases such as this, to conduct litigation and to exercise a right of audience.

“In correspondence with the defendant, she identified herself as such from an early stage and from the outset requested that the defendant communicate with Checkmylegalfees.com, rather than with the claimant directly.

“That seems to me to be consistent with the current provisions of the Solicitors' Code of Conduct (at chapter 11), which indicate that a solicitor should not contact a party directly where that solicitor is aware that that party has instructed ‘a lawyer’, defined in the glossary to the Code of Conduct to include ‘a profession whose members are authorised to carry on legal activities by an approved regulator other than the SRA’.

Master Leonard said that while Brethertons may have had some initial concerns about its authority to release the papers, by the time it wrote directly to the client, there could have been “no mistake” about the claimant's wishes or Ms Moore's professional status, which it could have easily checked on the CLSB website.

He concluded: “Whether the defendant has complied with the code of conduct is not a matter for me, but I would offer the view that Ms Moore, when acting as a Costs Lawyer with a right to conduct litigation, is at the least entitled to expect from the defendant the same professional courtesy as a solicitor would expect. It does not seem to me that she has received it.”

It was vastly rewarding to us, as a profession, to have such clear and unequivocal confirmation of our status from such an eminent source. Many members of our association worked very hard to secure independent rights of audience and we expect our solicitor colleagues to show us the same professional respect that we show them.

But that was not the end of the story...

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