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17 February 2022
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CLSB settles wording of Costs Lawyer competency statement

The Costs Lawyer Standards Board (CLSB) is to begin developing new education standards and learning outcomes for the Costs Lawyer qualification after settling the wording of the new Costs Lawyer competence statement.

Last September, the regulator issued a consultation on a draft competency statement, the aim of which was to set out the level of competency expected of Costs Lawyers at the point they qualify into the profession.

It has now published a report on the consultation and a revised version of the statement in light of the responses which were received from the ACL, ACL Training, the Legal Services Consumer Panel, the Solicitors Regulation Authority, Nottingham Law School, LawCare and an individual Costs Lawyer.

The CLSB pointed out that the views of many individual practitioners had already been incorporated at earlier stages of the project through one-to-one interviews and focus groups.

The statement will set a benchmark against which the CLSB can judge training courses, both for trainees and CPD, and establish a de minimis standard of work for qualified Costs Lawyers.

There was strong support for the introduction of the statement, with the SRA commenting on the benefits it has realised through its 2016 statement of solicitor competence, including that it provided a reference point for reflecting on ongoing competence and underpinned the new Solicitors Qualifying Examination.

The CLSB said it agreed with ACL’s observation about the need to keep the statement current over time and as a result would also develop a review programme covering, initially, the first five years following implementation.

In response to the consumer panel’s recommendation to investigate consumer expectations directly, the CLSB said: “We endeavoured to identify a group of individual (lay) consumers who we could test the competency statement with but, given the relatively small numbers of such clients in the market, we could not generate a sufficient sample.

“We are separately undertaking research to better understand consumer outcomes in the context of our consumer engagement strategy, and we will ensure that findings from that research are reflected in the review programme.”

The CLSB added that it was “conscious” of the need to avoid direct inconsistency with the SRA’s regulatory approach, given that around half of Costs Lawyers practice in organisations authorised by the SRA.

“We therefore welcome the SRA’s confirmation that the approach taken in the competency statement is well-aligned with its own.”

The response detailed the specific changes it has made as result of the consultation, and clarified that the minimum standard newly qualified Costs Lawyers need to have under the statement would “not be a disciplinary mechanism through which to sanction qualified Costs Lawyers for poor conduct”.

The CLSB flagged that, in future years, it would look to define expected competencies at other career stages, aligned with the Legal Services Board’s work on ongoing competence.

“The next stage of our work is to use the competency statement to develop new education standards and learning outcomes for the Costs Lawyer qualification. Alongside that, we will develop a new training provider accreditation scheme to ensure consistency and transparency in the accreditation process.

“We may consult again on those documents if necessary, following which we will apply to the Legal Services Board for approval of revisions to our training rules and course documentation.

“The competency statement will form part of, and provide evidence for, that approval process.”

Until that process is complete, training providers and students will not have to adopt the statement.

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