Costs News

30 July 2020
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CLSB proposes holding practising certificate fee at £275 for 2020-21

The Costs Lawyer Standards Board (CLSB) has proposed keeping the cost of practising steady at £275 for the next year as it outlined a range of planned work, including looking at the dangers of under-insurance.

In a newly published consultation paper, the CLSB said the coronavirus pandemic put an even greater emphasis on delivering a regulatory framework that “promotes safe innovation, supports business stability and encourages continued high standards of professional service”, but in a way that remains “affordable and proportionate” for all Costs Lawyers, regardless of their practising arrangements.

Budgeting on the basis of 665 Costs Lawyers, the CLSB’s proposed budget would be £182,875 for 2020/21, which should lead to a £10,000 contribution to reserves.

Its reserves policy provides for a target level of one year’s operating expenditure, which equates roughly to one year’s gross income from annual practising fees. “By the end of 2019, our reserves were around 60% of this target,” the consultation paper said. “We will continue to gradually increase our reserves until we meet the target level. As you can see from our 2019 audited accounts, we recently used some of our reserves to fund an organisational restructure, in line with our reserves policy [the CLSB made a £32,436 loss in 2019].

“The restructure was an essential part of the CLSB’s transformation into a more efficient, modern and resilient regulator. As anticipated, the restructure has also allowed us to make significant cost savings, not only in 2020 but into the foreseeable future. We are on track to recoup the entire cost of the restructure through savings by the end of 2021.”

Aside from staff costs, which account for £92,000 of the CLSB’s planned expenditure in 2020/21, the main cost is the levies imposed on the profession as part of the regulated community. The cost per Costs Lawyer of these contributions will be £21.81 for the Legal Services Board, £7.33 for the Legal Ombudsman and £4.25 for the consumer-facing Legal Choices website. Consultancy costs of £20,400 are the next biggest cost.

In the proposed business plan published by the CLSB, outgoing chair Steve Winfield – whose seven years in office finish at the end of 2020 – said he would leave the regulator “secure in the knowledge that it has the right processes and personnel in place to weather” storms such as Covid-19.

“I feel privileged to have been part of the organisation’s journey and I am confident that I leave a legacy that sees a bright future ahead.”

Chief executive Kate Wellington (pictured) described 2020 as a year of “rapid evolution” for the CLSB, with an IT overhaul resulting in a new website, new communications systems and better document storage.

“We built a bespoke database to power the register of Costs Lawyers, improving data security and regulatory supervision. And we implemented an online process for practising certificate renewals, saving considerable time and cost while also reducing risk. As a result, we have become a truly digital organisation, allowing us to respond nimbly and efficiently to an ever-changing marketplace.”

The business plan outlines a range of activities the CLSB has planned for the coming year, including:

  • Working with ACL Training to consider whether improvements are required to the training rules, informed by learnings from the first year of the refreshed Costs Lawyer qualification;
  • Carrying out an initial evaluation of the revised approach to continuing professional development;
  • Taking an in-depth look at three key areas “in which we have identified risks of poor consumer outcomes”, namely: under-insurance, handling of client money and communication of complaint procedures;
  • Considering how to improve consumer information in relation to the regulatory status of the organisations in which Costs Lawyers practise;
  • Reviewing the regime for accrediting Costs Lawyers to provide CPD training, to assess whether the accreditation criteria and the approach to implementation remain fit for purpose; and
  • Developing new guidance for unregulated employers of Costs Lawyers and on closing down a practice.

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