Costs Lawyers are instructed to deal with a wide range of issues arising from legal costs. Legal costs can be defined, essentially, as the remuneration of legal representatives (eg solicitors and barristers) which are controlled by statute or common law.
Three of the main areas in which Costs Lawyers may become involved are:
Costs payable "between the parties"
In litigation, the unsuccessful party is usually ordered to pay the successful party's costs. If those costs cannot be agreed, a detailed bill is served. The party required to pay the costs may raise objections, following which the court will determine what is a reasonable sum to be paid. The process is known as "detailed assessment" and Costs Lawyers are often involved at all stages. In addition, Costs Lawyers are often engaged by solicitors during the litigation to advise on costs budgeting or to assist with interim applications for costs.
Solicitor and "own client" costs
These are costs payable by a client to his own solicitor. The law relating to the charges solicitors may make to their clients for different types of work (eg property conveyancing, divorce, litigation) are extremely complex. Disputes between solicitors and their clients about costs often require expert advice and representation from a Costs Lawyer, who may be instructed to draw a detailed breakdown of the costs on behalf of the solicitor, or raise objections on behalf of the client.
Publicly-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 public funds to the solicitor. Costs Lawyers are often engaged to prepare such bills.