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31 March 2022
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Modernisation, engagement and representation: new ACL chair sets out his stall

Jack Ridgway (pictured) will formally take over as Chair of the Association of Costs Lawyers on Friday 1 April, with David Bailey-Vella and Stephen Averill as co-Vice-Chairs. Stephanie Donald has been appointed treasurer.

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”.

He said the combination of the pandemic and the necessary focus on putting ACL Training on a stable footing since the qualification restarted in 2019 meant there has not been time in recent years for other necessary administrative changes, such as in the ACL office, articles and bye-laws – what 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-19. “The previous Chair and Council made sure we broke even or made small surpluses in recent years. My plans do not involve any great increase in expenditure, and will be matched by increases in revenue-generating activity.”

Proving the value of membership was linked directly to representation. Mr Ridgway said: “We’re a representative body, but I don’t think we’ve being representing our members enough. I think they 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. “These are areas that everyone can agree they’d like to see promoted,” he said.

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 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.”

Mr Ridgway described the knotty issue of whether to welcome non-Costs Lawyers into the association in some capacity as a “year two question”. He explained: “If we can’t convince Costs Lawyers to be ACL members, how can we convince costs draftsmen or other regulated individuals?”

He went on to praise his new-look Council. “The 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.”

This may be just as well, as Mr Ridgway is also due to become a father for the first time in the next month.

He began working in costs in 2011. After spells at Civil & Commercial Costs Lawyers and then Just Costs, he joined London firm Bolt Burdon Kemp as a trainee Costs Lawyer in 2015, qualifying in 2017. He has since been promoted twice, becoming an Associate Costs Lawyer in recent weeks.

Mr Ridgway praised the firm for “always been supportive of me”, including in taking on the ACL post.

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