Train to be a Costs Lawyer

What is a Costs Lawyer and why train to become one? 

A Costs Lawyer is a qualified and regulated legal professional who specialises in the law and practice of legal costs. 

As a Costs Lawyer, you would be part of the only branch of the regulated legal profession that has a detailed knowledge of and expertise in the field of legal costs.  Your services would be predominantly sought by firms of solicitors, but instructions may also be obtained from members of the public including businesses. 

By becoming a Costs Lawyer, you would be involved in a highly specialised niche area of the law. Costs law has become even more specialised in recent years following significant reforms in April 2013. 

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What do Costs Lawyers do?

The work historically derives from the following three key areas: 

  • Costs between the parties;
  • Solicitor and client costs;
  • Legal aid/public funding. 

Until recently, most of the work you would undertake as a Costs Lawyer would be carried out after the settlement of a matter.  However, in very recent years, with the introduction of costs budgeting, Costs Lawyers are an integral part of the case (whichever party is giving the instructions) and, as a Costs Lawyer, you may be heavily involved in the management of the claim from a very early stage right through settlement of the claim and to the conclusion of matters relating to costs. 

As a Costs Lawyer, your work is likely to be considerably varied and what work you would undertake would depend upon where you work – this may be in-house in a solicitor’s firm, within a firm dealing solely with legal costs or you could work independently.  Some Costs Lawyers deal with a particular specialism (i.e. work solely on behalf of claimants or defendants or only take on legal aid work) whilst others may deal with a broad spectrum of work. 

The following details some of the work you could undertake as a Costs Lawyer although this is by no means exhaustive: 

  • Advise on retainers and fee arrangements between clients and their legal advisors;
  • Assist in the preparation of costs budgets and advise on costs budgets presented by an opposing party
  • Attend Costs Case Management Conferences (CCMC)
  • Advise on costs orders
  • Draft bills of costs and schedules;
  • Draft points of dispute and replies to points of dispute;
  • Advise on costs offers and negotiate
  • Attend detailed assessment hearings (advocacy)
  • Instruct costs counsel to attend detailed assessment hearings
  • Attend mediation (alternative dispute resolution (ADR))
  • Deal with the outcome of provisional assessment
  • Prepare applications relevant to costs including appeals.
  • Advise on and prepare claims for costs from public funds (legal aid)
  • Advise on disputes between solicitors and their clients
  • Act as costs mediators or arbitrators in costs disputes 

As the work is varied and each legal case is very different, no two days are likely to be the same in the life of a Costs Lawyer!

What is the difference between a Costs Lawyer and a costs draftsman?

Upon qualification and upon meeting certain requirements, you would be able to apply to the Costs Lawyer Standards Board (CLSB) for a practising certificate which would afford you the rights to conduct the following reserved legal activities under the Legal Services Act 2007: 

  • The exercise of a right of audience
  • The conduct of litigation
  • The administration of oaths.

A non-qualified costs draftsman is not afforded the same rights, although, in certain circumstances, a non-qualified draftsman may be regulated by the Solicitors’ Regulation Authority (SRA) (e.g. where he or she is an employee of a solicitor’s firm).  However, that individual will not hold a practising certificate.

Why embark on the training?

There are many reasons why you may want to embark on the training.  You may have been working in legal costs for many years and want to join the team of regulated professionals such that you have the right to exercise the reserved legal activities afforded to Costs Lawyer.  

Or perhaps you are new to working in this area and want to train at the same time.  

You may even be a solicitor or barrister and want to become more knowledgeable in this specialised area.

Distance learning with a difference

Whilst the course is predominantly distance learning, the forum for the course is an exciting, bespoke “online learning environment”.  Here you will find all of the course materials, interactive activities, the assignment for each module, discussion forums and your tutorial forum.  The course is distance learning with a difference as you will be appointed a tutor (who is either a Costs Lawyer or an academic) for each unit (often you will have the same tutor for the three units) who will hold weekly tutorials either on the forum (a chat platform) or by way of GoToMeetings/Skype.  The tutorials are a fantastic opportunity to discuss further activities with your tutor and with the students in your group.  Over the past few years there have been some very lively debates!  There is also the opportunity to discuss the assignment and what is going on in the costs environment generally.  It’s a great opportunity to interact with other students.

What will be gained from training – on a personal and professional level?

The course will mean something different to each of you on a personal level.  On a professional level, qualifying as a Costs Lawyer will entitle you to use that title in communications with clients, opponents and the court.  This means they will know they are dealing with a highly qualified and regulated individual.  Your employer and colleagues will also know they are employing/working with a professional.

As part of the course you will be required to prepare a Professional Development Plan which will initially help you identify what skills you have, what skills you desire and what career aspirations you have.  You will be required to revisit this during the course and, again, towards the end of the course.  At that point, you will be able to map your journey from the start of the course and, on a personal and professional level, be able to see how far you’ve developed and where you are heading in the future.  This should help you in your career and may also help you to identify transferable skills for other areas of your life.

Don’t take our word for it; see what current students are saying… 

A fantastic course for those new to costs and those already working in the industry. The tutors go above and beyond to help students. I couldn’t recommend the course highly enough.

Katie Williamson, Horwich Farrelly

I wanted to be a Costs Lawyer. I wanted to study at the highest level and be taught by exceptional people. The ACL course delivered all of this and so much more. I joined a family of high achievers. You can join that family too.

Michele Breen, Solicitor and Barrister

The course starts in September each year and the closing date for applications is 30 June.

Applications received after 30 June may not be considered until the following year. The application form must be completed in full with correct information and should be accompanied by the following:

  1. The name, address and phone number of two referees.
  2. Documentary evidence of qualifications (certified copies are required).
  3. The applicant’s curriculum vitae.
  4. Payment of the application fee of £50.

Course Fees - 2017/2018

The first year programme will cost £2,500 plus VAT, with a similar commitment for years two and three.  As well as all materials, tutorial support, compulsory seminars, a revision course and exam, the fee also includes student membership of the ACL.

Apply for the Costs Lawyer Qualification