Association of Law Costs Draftsmen

I recently became a member of the Association of Law Costs Draftsmen (ALCD) after passing their Fellowship examination.  I can now put FALCD after my name.  As you can imagine, this was the proudest day of my mother’s life. 

Some readers may be surprised to discover I was not previously a member of the ALCD.  Other readers may be equally surprised that I managed to pass the exam.
Let me explain further.  Any idiot can, and often does, refer to themselves as being a law costs draftsmen.  Wendy Popplewell, Chairman of the ALCD, recently wrote that “it is recognised that ‘law costs draftsman’ is not a title protected by law to those holding ALCD qualifications”.
The ALCD exists as a body to train, regulate and promote costs draftsmen.  However, membership is entirely voluntary.  The ALCD was recently granted authorised body status which enabled it to grant rights of audience and the right to conduct costs litigation to Costs Lawyers.  A two day training course bumps up Fellows to Costs Lawyer status and I am booked onto the next course in May.
For practical purposes, being a Costs Lawyer brings limited additional rights to what any costs draftsmen/consultant can do, whether as a member of the ALCD or not.  I’ll discuss this in more detail later, but not having automatic rights of audience as a Costs Lawyer, and not being a practising barrister, has never prevented me from appearing in court in costs matters, including appeals in the High Court and at Circuit Judge level (only Ahmed v Powell managed that feat on one embarrassing occasion).
The ALCD normally requires its members to complete what has become over the years an ever more sophisticated training programme in all things costs related.  I entered straight in at Fellowship level.  There is a little known, and possibly soon to be abolished, shortcut for those who have been practising in the field of legal costs for long enough (I think the current requirement is something like a minimum of 50 years) and who then pass the written exam.
Well, I’ve been doing costs for long enough to have passed the first requirement.  I only had to worry about the simple matter of passing the exam.  The previous year’s exam papers had 6 questions of which 3 had to be answered.  The pass mark was 65%.  For me, the 3 out of 6 was likely to be the problem.  Regular readers (God bless both of you) may think I know all there possibly is to know about legal costs.  In truth, I work in the limited field of civil costs and, usually, only inter partes costs.  I don’t do criminal, family, legal aid, employment, etc, etc.  My big worry was that I might be able to answer, say, only 2 of the questions.  Then, unless I managed to score a rather unlikely 100% in both of those questions, there would be no way I could pass the exam. 
A number of years ago I did write to the ALCD, and they published the letter in their Journal, suggesting that their training programme should be amended to recognise that many costs draftsmen practise in a limited field of costs law and that familiarity with all areas is not necessary.  In the same way, a barrister can become fully qualified without ever having studied family law.  The ALCD decided not to alter the range of subjects they expected those who went through their training to study.  Fair enough.  Their ball and they can decide who gets to play with it.
So I went into the exam with every expectation that I would take one look at the paper and have to walk straight out.  (You might, at this stage, suggest that I should have tried to learn some of the other subjects to give myself a better chance.)  In the event, the paper had 9 questions and I was therefore able to find at least 3 I could answer.  This made it, possibly, even worse.  Now, if I failed, I would have no excuse.  It would have been a rather embarrassing day for the Legal Costs Blog if I had failed the exam.  And, I must say, the exam questions were certainly challenging.  It was with no small sense of relief when I finally opened the envelope informing me I had passed.
I write all this not because I think the average reader has any particular interest in my career development but as an introduction to what I will be writing about tomorrow which has real importance for all those working in the field of legal costs, whether as an ALCD costs draftsmen or otherwise.


7 thoughts on “Association of Law Costs Draftsmen

  1. Hi Simon –

    This makes for very interesting reading and since I am looking into this particular career route, I was wondering if I could pick your brain briefly (and if you would be so kind to share it with me)?

    Basically, I work (for a very low wage) in a criminal solicitors office and our Law Costs Draftsman left permanently about four months ago. Since then I have been given the job of doing all the litigators fees including tracking and monitoring the payments and disputing any that need such when they are returned to us. I also do the billing for defence costs orders from central funds – we concentrate mainly on legal aid work. I have had no real training in any of this and am now responsible for it all. I would like to get qualified and have been looking into taking the ALCD route. I am unsure as to the qualifications of my predecessor and note that you say there are plenty of draftsman who are not qualified and so I am curious about this. Also my predecessor said that law costs draftsmen were becoming obsolete as it is all online and far easier now – is this true and if so, is it worth taking the three year ALCD course? She gave the impression that the job would soon not exist as solicitors would be doing their own bills inhouse (much like my firm are doing with using me to do them). I would very much like your opinion on this as I would like to qualify and work on this career, but know no-one to advise me on the world of costs. Ideally, I would like to work for myself one day, collecting and working on files from firms and delivering them back, but I do not know if there is such a market for this? The old costs draftsman earned 5% of each case – I (as long as it is not overtime) do it as just an extra duty.

    I am sorry to ask you and I am sorry for the long winded barage of questions, but I do hope that you will reply to me and help me with whatever information and advice that you care to impart.

    Many, many, many thanks.


  2. Sophie,

    I don't do legal aid or criminal work so I may not be the best person to ask. But more generally:

    There are really only two ways to train as a costs draftsmen. One is to train in-house under more experienced draftsmen. Formal qualifications are not needed in this situation. That option is obviously not open to you in your current postion. Alternatively, the only way to train properly is through the ALCD's training course. This is modular so you would not necessarily have to complete all sections to gain the skills to work in certain costs areas.

    Costs draftsmen generally are certianly not about to become obsolete. I've no idea whether legal aid work can be done "online" but other costs work cannot. It is simply not the case that costs law is "easier now". Costs law becomes more complex by the day and nothing is about to end that.

    Other than legal aid work, which I can't comment on, the continued complexity of costs work means it is very unlikely that more than a handful of the solicitors will try to do this work themselves.

    The problem facing law costs draftsmen is the Jackson Report. You can read my other posts on that subject. What it is likely to mean is much less work available. The question you need to ask is whether you want to start training for a shrinking profession. Many of those already fully trained will find themselves out of work in the future.

    Yes, there is, and will continue to be, a market for costs draftsmen working on their own from home. How many there will be is a different question.

  3. Hi Sophie
    I am also a FALCD specialising mainly in legal aid work. There is certainly no problem with running out of work. There are major changes coming into force on 14th October. Your predecessor is correct in that alot of claim will be submitted on line. However, the LSC (bless them) are making it so complicated that it will need specialist costs draftsman to prepare these. I work in house and my workload seems to be increasing daily.

    The constant changes to all aspects of costs law make this an extremely interesting and challenging career with very good prospects.

    Members of the ALCD are gaining more and more recognition throughout the legal industry. Being a member means you will also have a significant level of support for those more difficult cases and access to excellent courses to keep you up to date.

    Definitely recommend the career and becoming a member


  4. Pingback: ALCD seeks to ban Jeremy Morgan QC from costs proceedings : GWS Law

  5. Does that exam option still exist in 2014 for those with eg 4 years experience? (ie as opposed to undertaking the ALCD 3 year course). Thanks

  6. Ok Thanks. Well done for completing the course etc. I am glad I came across this blog. It pointed me in the right direction. The ALCD was not discussed particularly well whilst I was employed and I was too busy at first, to take the time to look.

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