COST LAWYERS – SHOW THEM SOME RESPECT: OBSERVATIONS FROM THE HIGH COURT

There is a footnote to the judgment of Master Leonard yesterday in Allen v Brethertons LLP [2018] EWHC B15 (Costs) that is worth reading for anyone involved in costs litigation.

“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.”

THE CASE

The claimant applied for, and obtained, an order that the defendant solicitor deliver a bill of costs. During the course of the action the defendant had corresponded with the claimant directly rather than the costs lawyer who was acting for the claimant.

THE FOOTNOTE

In a footnote to the judgment the Master made the following observations:-

“Footnote
  1. Ms Moore, the Claimant’s professional adviser, is a Costs Lawyer, that is to say a person regulated by the Costs Lawyer Standards Board and with 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.
  2. 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”.
  3. If the Defendant had been any doubt about Ms Moore’s status, a quick check of the public register maintained by the CLSB, and freely available on the Internet, would have confirmed it.
  4. The Defendant refused to comply with Ms Moore’s request not to contact the Claimant directly. Its response to Ms Moore’s initial communication was to write directly to the Claimant on the basis that Checkmylegalfees.com is not a firm of solicitors. Even after its file had been released to Checkmylegalfees.com and it had received notice that the Claimant’s application had been filed, the Defendant wrote its letter of 18 February 2018 directly to the Claimant, encouraging him to deal with the Defendant directly.
  5. I appreciate that the Defendant may have had some initial concerns about its authority to release papers to Checkmylegalfees.com, but by 18 February 2018 can have been no mistake about the Claimant’s wishes or Ms Moore’s professional status.
  6. 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.”