Qualified Costs Lawyer profile - Tracyanne

Tracyanne Ayliffe, qualified Costs Lawyer at Irwin Mitchell

Tracyanne discusses how she joined the Costs Lawyer profession and her career to date

What can I say about the profession since I joined? At the first conference I attended the room was full of tall people in suits (I would guess 90/95% male) which has been transformed into a more gender inclusive profession. I have during my career been a single mum, commuted across the M62 on a weekly basis, made some great connections, worked in some great organisations and above all enjoyed most days of the 35 years and counting. The Costs Lawyer life is really diverse and with the changes introduced over the years, become more complex and niche, with every change bringing new opportunities to adapt and develop us as individuals and have a rewarding and enjoyable career.

I started my Legal Costs career, 35 years ago, having become disillusioned by a life in Accountancy. I used my transferrable numeracy and enjoyment of legal modules, done whilst training to become an Accountant, and started as a costs clerk in a firm in Grimsby, Lincolnshire.

While training I crossed paths with several external draftsmen, who prepared the ‘Court bills’ while I concentrated on the Legal Aid claims, mainly for Family, Crime and Personal Injury. I made the decision to ‘go external’ in 1995 and set up an office under the umbrella of Iain Stark's business. To do this I had to go out and pitch for business and obtained instructions from several firms, particularly in the Kingston upon Hull area. We regularly did hearings in the SCCO & regional Courts. All of the bills produced were done by hand, dictated, typed and checked! I have since introduced billing packages to firms and trained  costs draftsmen/Costs Lawyers to use them.

I joined the ACLD (Association of Law Costs Draftsmen), now the Association of Costs Lawyers, in 1993 and qualified as an Associate of the ALCD. I regularly attended the ALCD conferences and made many connections (I wouldn’t have been able to so readily living in Lincolnshire). I joined the ALCD Council and did two stints. For my second time on the council, I was more involved in the regulatory issues; this was a key time in the development of the profession, and I was involved in the committee/group responsible for making the associations rules and regulations fit for purpose ready for the application for Authorised Body Status – there was a real buzz around the profession. I had (& have) a real interest in education and training and promoting qualification during my first time on the Council. We then created the initial course for qualifying as a Costs Lawyer, which I did in 2007 (one of the first cohort).

I was also interviewed for a non-lay non-Executive Board member of the CLSB and was on the board for 6 years from 2013 so have been involved in regulatory decisions for the governance of the profession. I now serve as a regulatory advisor.

I have headed up several costs teams, reporting direct to partners and have trained several Costs Lawyers during my career. I have regularly interviewed many applicants for positions since I joined Irwin Mitchell in 2010. I have now achieved Associate status at Irwin Mitchell and head up their costs team in Manchester with oversight of the newly launched Liverpool office. My day to day life involves many facets of costs, & I regularly attend meetings with Partners and MI. I have a team of eight, mostly qualified costs lawyers or solicitors.

I remain interested in all things and have been asked by Erica Bedford to consider a mentoring role, following the launch of the Women in Costs group. I am also involved in BD for the costs team across the Northwest, having regularly attended balls, office launch parties, trainee selection days, fund raising and other events on behalf of Irwin Mitchell as an Associate and Costs Lawyer.

Added April 2023