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Costs consultants not a dirty word: commissioner

Briefs

Cite as: April 2011 85(4) LIJ, p.16

Legal Services Commissioner Michael McGarvie has called on the costs consulting sector to develop standards of conduct and service delivery in order to raise the sector’s profile.

Speaking at the LIV’s national costs law conference in February, Mr McGarvie said that without legislation to regulate costs consultants, there were only marginal regulatory steps available to improve and enforce professional standards.

He reminded the conference that his office did not directly regulate costs consultants who didn’t carry practising certificates, and stressed he saw no urgency to seek out instances of unqualified practice being carried out in the costs consulting community just because it was competing with costs lawyers for professional services.

However, the commissioner said the findings in Mietto v. G4S Custodial Services raised a number of significant issues about costs consulting.

Of particular interest were the need to obtain leave to appear and the current Supreme Court practice of not allowing a scale fee to be payable for the appearance of a costs consultant at a final hearing on taxation.

Mr McGarvie also highlighted the widespread use of the phrase “unqualified costs consultants” in this judgment and other publications.

“This wrongly implies that some costs consultants who do not carry a legal practising certificate may be engaging in the offence known as unqualified practice merely by offering costing services to law firms,” he said.

Mr McGarvie argued that no offence was being committed as long as a costs consultant avoided offering the provision of legal services. He said costs consultants needed to take great care to ensure their branding and advertising avoided offering legal services, or risk hostility from costs lawyers, courts, consumers and the regulator.

LIV education general manager Kerry Curtin said the conference attracted more than 90 people.

“The LIV continues to offer practitioners timely opportunities to enhance their skills and gain valuable insights into current practice,” she said.

Former LIV costing manager Meg Gourlay, who left the LIV to go into private practice, has been appointed as a judicial registrar to the Victorian Costs Court. She is among the first judicial registrar appointments made in Victoria’s Supreme Court.

Access the LIV costing service at http://bit.ly/h4XlZU or by calling the LIV costing manager on ph 9607 9405 or 9607 9403.

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