Managing partner, Elite Law, London
When I was about 14 my aunt, who was a lawyer in Italy, took me along on one of her cases. I was sitting in a court in Rome listening to lawyers argue and thought ‘that looks fun’ – and stuck to the idea of becoming a lawyer from that point onwards. I must admit, however, that I never expected to become a costs specialist.
The law degree and LPC provide a foundation for the skills you require to be a lawyer. However, the training contract is where you learn the most. Theory is all well and good but you do not truly learn until you get hands-on experience. How good the solicitor is supervising you during the training contract also makes a huge difference. Fortunately, I had a very good one.
The biggest challenge is how to continue practising. With the introduction of fixed fees, the legal costs marketplace has shrunk and will continue to do so, particularly with the advent of artificial intelligence. As a result, from doing only costs work we have had to expand and diversify into other areas to become a full-service law firm. Diversification has its challenges but hopefully, in the long run, rewards also.
A career highlight was making new law in the Court of Appeal in Messih v McMillan Williams. This established the principle that if Civil Procedure Rule 38.6 had been intended to create a general discretion as to costs on discontinuance, it would have said so.
The hardest client is the one that thinks they know best. What I mean by that is a client who thinks they know what the ‘pertinent’ documents are, rather than simply give you everything and let you judge what is pertinent. This kind of client forces you into a situation where you can never ‘fully’ advise because the picture keeps changing.
My least favourite statute is LASPO. I believe it has hugely restricted access to justice and caused the costs world to become far more complicated.
More has been lost than gained through changes within the legal profession. In particular, recent changes relating to legal aid and the introduction of fixed costs have restricted access to justice for the ordinary person, as well as made it increasingly difficult for the court to administer justice. The number of firms that closed due to the criminal legal aid bid fiasco is disheartening. Furthermore, it is hard not to feel as if the government is targeting our profession without good cause.
I hope that the justice system is not further eroded by government policies. As for my specific area of law, I do hope that the introduction of further fixed costs is based on empirical evidence rather than politics.
I also hope that the new format bill of costs is not implemented in its current guise. This would only cause greater expense and litigation.