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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.