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

Authorised rights 

Costs Lawyers are regulated by the Costs Lawyer Standards Board under the Legal Services Act and are authorised to carry on the following reserved legal activities: 

  • The exercise of a right of audience
  • The conduct of litigation
  • The administration of oaths

Provided that they are instructed to deal only with matters that relate to costs, they may conduct proceedings and represent clients in any court or tribunal, including any criminal court or courts martial, the Supreme Court or the Privy Council where: 

  • the proceedings are at first instance; or
  • the proceedings include an appeal below the level of the Court of Appeal or Upper Tribunal, are on a first appeal (other than in the Court of Appeal) and the appeal itself relates to costs; or
  • the proceedings do not fall within either of the categories above, but your instructions are limited to dealing with the costs of the proceedings; or
  • the court or tribunal grants permission for you to conduct proceedings or to represent a client (or both).
  • Where proceedings relate to other matters, in addition to costs, the rights referred to above apply only to those parts of the proceedings (if any) that:
  • relate solely to costs; or
  • when they relate to other issues, solely those issues that are not in dispute.

Further information is available on the Costs Lawyer Standard Board website - https://www.clsb.info

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.

Legal aid costs

  • Where a solicitor is representing a legally aided client, a detailed bill is usually required to be assessed either by the court or the Legal Aid Agency before payment can be made out of the legal aid fund to the solicitor.
  • Whilst such bills are usually assessed without any formal hearing, if an amount has been disallowed by the court and the solicitor wishes to object, an appointment can be obtained and the matter argued at a hearing. Where an amount is disallowed by the Legal Aid Agency, written submissions can be made.
  • Preparation of High Costs Case Plans in cases where the costs will exceed £25,000, some public family law cases where authority for use of leading counsel is granted, or other special cases including multi-party actions and Supreme Court cases.
  • When a legally aided client (who has a financial interest in their costs) disputes the level of costs being claimed by their solicitor, and those costs are being assessed by the court, an oral hearing for assessment is made for the client’s dispute to be heard.
  • In criminal cases, the objections to an amount disallowed are usually made, at first instance, in writing and are usually considered on paper appeal, often, a Costs Lawyer will be instructed to prepare the written submissions. The decision will provide details of the further appeal process, which usually involves an oral hearing at the Legal Aid Agency/National Taxing Team offices, at which a Costs Lawyer will be further instructed to attend.