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Specialists at any costing


Cite as: Jan/Feb 2011 85(1/2) LIJ, p.33

Costs law has become the latest addition to the accredited specialisation ranks.

It’s been described as gruelling, challenging and not for the disorganised. Yet for those who achieve it, accredited specialisation (AS) can bring greater confidence, improved client relationships and professional respect from peers.

Costs lawyer Cate Dealehr of Compucost last year became one of Victoria’s first accredited specialists in costs law. She said that by the time she sat the exam in August “I had improved my skill set by 50 per cent”.

For Ms Dealehr, the opportunity to be recognised as a specialist in her field – with superior skills, knowledge, proficiency and expertise – came after more than 20 years’ practice as a costs lawyer.

The sole practitioner said that while the AS course was onerous at times, it was certainly worth doing.

“Our client base is mainly other lawyers and they can be confident we have the skill set needed for what can be very difficult areas of dispute,” she said.

Costs law was offered as an AS area for the first time in 2010 with four lawyers – Ms Dealehr, Anna Sango of Kirk Barclay, Debra Paver of Harris Cost Lawyers and Janine Wirth of Hausler & Associates – successful in achieving AS through the LIV’s program.

The chair of the LIV’s advisory committee on costs law specialisation, costs lawyer Liz Harris, said the quartet was qualified in all areas of costs law.

“They have achieved a high standard of advocacy, they have achieved a high standard of written advice work and they have demonstrated an appropriate level of skill and knowledge across all areas of costs law,” she said.

Ms Harris said recognition of costs law as an AS area of law was very significant. Traditionally seen as less complex, Ms Harris said it was still viewed by some lawyers as simply a matter of going through a file and working out how much a lawyer can charge.

“Yet it is a particularly complex area of law which has more day-to-day impact on practitioners because there is an increasing number of clients challenging their bills and the legislation is so difficult to comply with,” she told the LIJ.

“Costs law touches every lawyer, but more importantly it touches every client.”

Ms Harris said litigation had also become increasingly complex, with the amount of money involved in costs law disputes becoming very large. But a lawyer who gets the costs law issues right in litigation can improve their client’s cost recovery by 50 per cent, she said.

The introduction of costs law as an AS area coincided with the establishment of the Costs Court in Victoria last year.

Cost judge Associate Justice Jamie Wood said having accredited specialists in costs law would help improve the Court’s efficiency.

“The legal costing area has historically been an area where specialist knowledge is required and valued,” he said.

“The establishment of the [LIV’s] Costs Lawyers Committee in 2006 was an important initiative. The establishment of the Costs Court in 2010 and anticipated appointment of a judicial registrar in 2011 signal the growing importance and profile of this area.

“The [LIV’s] specialist accreditation process is a logical and valuable addition to complement these reforms. An increase in the number of highly skilled practitioners will be a useful adjunct to the taxation and review of legal costs and assist in the overall efficiency of the work of the Costs Court.”

For more information about the AS program, see under accredited specialisation in the education and events section at

Key dates

Key AS dates for 2011 are: Monday, 28 February – information night; Friday 15 April – special consideration applications close; Friday 13 May – applications close; Saturday 30 July – specialisation written examination.


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