Costs lawyers remain largely sceptical about the chances of achieving consistency in budgeting decisions, a poll has found.

The survey of members of the Association of Costs Lawyers asked how the current costs management regime was working.

The most common response from the 128 replies, with more than a fifth of the vote, was that it depended on which judge you sit before.

A smaller number reported costs budgeting had brought costs lawyers’ skills to the fore, while 15% of respondents wrongly felt solicitors think they can do costs budgeting themselves.

ACL chairman Iain Stark (pictured) said costs budgeting has started to demonstrate its value in its third year, but it has yet to be the success the senior judiciary had hoped for.

‘Judicial inconsistency and some solicitors continuing not to pay heed to the rules – particularly around updating budgets – means that it has not yet achieved what it was supposed to,’ added Stark.

Almost a third of respondents felt solicitors would never be interested in the new format bill of costs, no matter how good it was. Costs lawyers themselves were not enthused by the new format, with a quarter of them believing it would make things worse.

Nearly two-thirds of costs lawyers said they had maintained or increased work levels, but the majority saw the government’s reform agenda as the biggest threat to their sector.

Most notably, the wider use of fixed costs is being considered by ministers, and Stark said solicitors should use costs lawyers if they want to convince the government to leave the system alone.

‘It is in the entire legal profession’s interests to make costs management work, or otherwise face the prospect of having far more arbitrary fixed costs imposed from above for large swathes of cases,’ he said.

‘The new bill of costs, if properly implemented, could help with this process.’