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Catching up with our longest serving business tenant

Updated: Dec 15, 2023

The Exchange 1856 is creating a place where local businesses can grow and thrive.

We talked to our longest-serving business tenant, Ian Black of Ian Black Associates, about why The Exchange 1856 has been the base for his legal costs business for the past 18 years.

What does Ian Black Associates do?

Ian Black Associates was set up in 1995 to provide specialist cost services to solicitors and barristers. As well as litigants in person. In many cases, our first involvement in a case will be to prepare a costs budget, which sets out projected costs at various stages of a case up to and including trial. The budget includes all steps of the proceedings from anticipated experts’ fees to preparation of witness statements, disclosure of documents, settlement meetings and every legal step to drive the case to conclusion.

Departure from a Court-approved costs budget isn’t allowed unless there is a really good reason so the bar in set high in relation to this. It’s crucial the budget covers all necessary items and steps as the solicitor / barrister will be held to it.

It’s necessary for costs lawyers like us, to use our skills and anticipate work that needs to be undertaken, the specialism of experts to be instructed and how many days the trial is likely to last.

As well as budgeting, we prepare bills of costs for our clients and negotiate with the opposing party in relation to the same.

Tell us more about your business?

There are only around 600 costs lawyers in the country because of the specialised nature of our work and we have clients right across the UK from Newcastle down to London.

There are five of us in the business, each with our own specialisms, and we deal with a wide variety of cases, including clinical negligence, personal injury, corporate contracts cases, family law, child care, contested probate matters and court protection work.

Any famous cases?

We’ve worked on lots of famous cases, but unfortunately, I can’t disclose the names of the parties involved.

One thing I can disclose is that we always build very strong client relationships because of our service and willingness to go the extra mile. I have had some wonderful days over the years. In one case, I was successful in obtaining a full costs order for a client after a lengthy hearing down in London. He had suffered parental alienation and had spent his life savings, and those of his parents, fighting the case. Following pronouncement of the judgement, and after standing while the judge exited the courtroom, I turned to shake my client’s hand, only for the client, who was in tears, to grab me in a bear hug and thank me repeatedly. He stays in touch with me to this day and calls me his ‘Angel from the North.’

What’s your background?

I was born and bred in North Shields so it’s great to base my business here and feel like I’m giving something positive back to the town.

I’ve personally worked in the legal profession since 1977, starting out as a trainee legal executive in a solicitor’s office and progressing through to an Associate and then Fellow of the Association of Law Costs Draftsmen before qualifying as a Costs Lawyer in 2009.

There’s a saying in law that ‘perfect preparation makes perfect performance’ and I’m renowned for leaving no stone unturned, as well as for my extensive handwritten notes, which accompany me into the courtroom at every hearing.

Why did you move to The Exchange 1856?

When I first set up in business, I initially had offices on the other side of the water in Jarrow but always wanted to come back to my hometown.

When the opportunity arose to move into The Exchange 1856, I jumped at the chance. Back in 1976, while studying law at Tynemouth Sixth Form College, I visited the Old Law Courts that used to be in the building and I fell in love with the place because of its immense character. Externally, the building is so striking and I have many photographs of it dating from the second half of the 1800’s onwards.

Many of my clients were also close by so it was perfect. In 2005, I moved in.

What do you think about the changes at The Exchange 1856?

I think the renovation is brilliant. For many years this beautiful building has been neglected. The communal areas weren’t touched, and a lot of the rooms were empty.

Now it’s nice to feel part of a thriving business community in the heart of the Cultural Quarter. On summer evenings, I had my office window open and could hear people chatting outside in Brown’s pavement café. It was fabulous. It is really bringing this area to life.

Now people can come and have a drink, enjoy a lovely meal, do Pilates, come to a show. I’m sure it will attract many more people into the town centre.

It really is a pleasure to be here and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

To find out more about Ian Black Associates contact


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