Costs Lawyer student numbers double

Association of Costs Lawyers’ press release:

The number of people choosing to train as a Costs Lawyer has almost doubled during 2011 as the impact of several major forces – including the Jackson reforms and the Legal Services Act – are felt in the costs sector.

The Association of Costs Lawyers received 112 applications to take its join its rigorous training programme this year, compared to 65 in 2010. Study leads ultimately to qualification as a Costs Lawyer, an authorised person under the Legal Services Act with independent rights of audience and to conduct litigation.

Iain Stark, chairman of the Association of Costs Lawyers, said one major factor was the growing insistence of the courts that only those with rights of audience can appear in costs hearings – law costs draftsmen, who are not members of the ACL, have to rely on an out-of-date “legal fiction” that they are temporary employees of their instructing solicitor and so can “borrow” their rights of audience.

Mr Stark explains: “Following the recent costs management pilot in Birmingham and the current nationwide pilot in Mercantile Courts and Technology and Construction Courts across England and Wales arising out of the Jackson reforms, the profile and importance of costs has never been higher. As such, judges increasingly want to hear from those with the relevant experience and recognised level of qualification.

“All litigators will have to get to grips with costs budgeting as part of these reforms and we are seeing more firms – including some of the largest in the City – deciding to bring costs expertise in-house so they can manage costs from the start.”

The increased status of costs professionals coupled with the continued downturn in the legal jobs market has changed people’s attitude towards a career in costs, Mr Stark continues. “The unprecedented rise in student numbers demonstrates that people are starting to realise that there are other routes to a successful and rewarding legal career. Under the Legal Services Act, Costs Lawyers undertake reserved legal activities and enjoy the same benefits and status of many other legal professionals – including partnership in legal disciplinary practices.”

The Costs Lawyer route to qualification also supports the social mobility agenda in the legal profession, as students need only a minimum of four GCSEs to begin the training – those who have completed law degrees or postgraduate legal education can gain exemptions from parts of the programme.

2 thoughts on “Costs Lawyer student numbers double

  1. “Legal Fiction” Anyone know of a case where an costs draftsperson, who is not an ACL being refused the right of audience. Seems more like PR for a closed shop. Not sure what the ACL are really worried about. When I attend detailed assessments, do I want to be opposed by an experienced costs draftsman (ACL or not), who knows the game, or a “costs monkey” who thinks cook on costs, is Nigella’s new book on cooking on a budget. I know who my client’s would prefer. Would be interested to know, how many of the new students are law graduates who are unable to obtain training contracts or pupillage.

  2. The ALCD (or ACL as it is now known) has done a lot to boost the status of the Costs Draftsman/Costs Advocate both in terms of the rights of audience legislation and the general promotion of costing as a promising career path.

    And having seen the course material put before new students I am confident that the training given has much improved over the last few years.

    I do believe the advocacy element of the training is lacking (or was when I did the Costs Lawyer course at the end of last year). The bar guide to advocacy should be a mandatory read as should role-play exercises.

    I am no longer a member and personally feel alienated by the push for regulation for all members and the consequential increase in fees to pay for the regulation (effectively doubling fees for trained members).

    The system changed last year (?) so that you are either a trainee or a cost lawyer. Cost lawyers have to pay the costs associated with their regulation. That’s fine and dandy. We don’t want a organisation with a growing presence in the legal sector running around without regulation, but costs practitioners that are employees of solicitors are regulated by the SRA and therefore don’t need this extra regulation and more importantly the cost burden of the extra regulation.

    As it was before you had student, cost draftsman – member (those that had completed the course and could therefore evidence their competence in their understanding of the law – although there were a few glaring exceptions i.e. those that had bypassed the course/exam) and cost lawyers.

    It will be interesting to see whether the ACL is used by solicitors to train their costs staff and whether they will continue to support their membership fees after they have finished the course. Frankly, why should they?

    Equally, I am curious as to how the Kynaston decision will affect membership. I think it is very good to see that the ACL are looking to modify the regulatory provisions that that employees of cost lawyers are covered by the same regulations that apply to full qualified, paid up cost lawyers. But, what is the incentive to have more than one cost lawyer per firm? Will the number signing up increase next year and will firms (including costing companies) take a commercial view and cut the budget for cost lawyer subscriptions next year for their trained staff.

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