About the ACL

As the representative body of Costs Lawyers, the ACL acts to support its members and to develop the legal costs profession


The Association was founded in 1977 as the Association of Law Costs Draftsmen (ALCD) to support and regulate the work undertaken by costs draftsmen. The objective was to promote the status and interests of the profession of law costs draftsmen generally, whilst ensuring the maintenance of the highest professional standards.

The recovery of legal costs in litigation in England is a principle that has been established since the time of William the Conqueror.  In more recent times the practice of this principle has become an increasingly complex and specialised area of the law and the role of a Costs Lawyer became more important and defined.  

Following the granting of rights of audience and the right to conduct (costs) litigation in 2007, the Association was re-branded as the Association of Costs Lawyers and was granted Authorised Body status.  In light of the procurement of rights of audience, the ACL bestowed the title of "Costs Lawyer" upon all Fellows of the Association who had successfully completed a designated advocacy course. Its front-line regulation duties were delegated to the Costs Lawyer Standards Board (CLSB)

Today, the association promotes and fosters an appreciation of the contribution made by Costs Lawyers within the legal profession. Further aims include the exchange of ideas and information with other legal bodies and the contribution to the development of the legal system. The ACL is recognised as an important contributor to law reform relating to costs law and procedures.

Role of the Costs Lawyer

Rights of audience

Costs Lawyers have rights of audience and/or to litigate:

  • in all proceedings being conducted under Parts 44 - 48 of the Civil Procedure Rules 1998
  • in all proceedings being conducted under Part 52 of the Civil Procedure Rules 1998 with regard to appeals from detailed assessments before a High Court Judge or a Circuit Court Judge
  • in all proceedings at first instance relating to costs before the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom (previously the House of Lords) and the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.
  • in all determinations as to costs in Community Legal Service regulations, Criminal Defence regulations, under section 16 of the Prosecution of Offences Act 1985 and the costs in Criminal Cases (General) Regulations 1986.
  • under sections 64(3) and (4), 68, 69, 70, 71 and 74 of the Solicitors Act 1974 and any subsequent enactment of provisions thereof.

A Costs Lawyer also has the right to administer oaths and take affidavits under section 113 of the Courts and Legal Services Act 1990.

Areas of involvement

The main areas in which Costs Lawyers may become involved are:

Costs payable between parties

  • At the conclusion of the claim, the unsuccessful litigant is usually ordered to pay the successful litigant’s costs and, if those costs cannot be agreed, a detailed bill of costs is prepared and served.
  • The paying party may serve a schedule of points of those items in the bill he wishes to dispute before the bill is lodged at court, to which the receiving party may reply.
  • If the Bill of Costs is for less than £75,000.00, a paper assessment is carried out by the Court (which either party may seek to review at an oral hearing if they do not accept the result).
  • For costs claims over £75,000.00 the disputes are argued before the Court at an oral hearing.
  • A Costs Lawyer can be involved in all the necessary procedural steps for either party.

Solicitor and client costs

  • These are costs payable by a client to their own solicitor.
  • Different rules apply to the costs where court proceedings have been commenced, known as contentious business, to those applicable to non-contentious matters such as conveyancing, probate and general advice.
  • A client who is unhappy with his solicitor's bill has remedies available if he wishes to challenge it. If the bill relates to contentious business, either the client or the solicitor may apply to the court for the bill to be assessed.
  • A Costs Lawyer may be instructed to prepare a detailed breakdown for the assessment in support of the invoice rendered by the solicitor to his client, to advise on law and procedure and to argue in support of or against the bill.

Public funded (legal aid) costs

  • Where a solicitor is representing a publicly funded client, a detailed bill is usually required to be assessed either by the court or the Legal Services Commission before payment can be made out of the community legal fund to the solicitor.
  • Whilst such bills are usually assessed without any formal hearing, if an amount has been disallowed and the solicitor wishes to object, an appointment can be obtained and the matter argued at a hearing.
  • In criminal cases, the objections to an amount disallowed are usually made in writing and, often, a Costs Lawyer will be instructed to prepare the written submissions.