Qualifying as a Costs Lawyer
Explore the content in this section for everything you need to know about becoming a Costs Lawyer
What is a Costs Lawyer?
A Costs Lawyer is a regulated specialist lawyer who deals with all areas of costs in legal work. They can be appointed by courts, solicitors, members of the public and businesses to undertake specific work including:
- drafting Bills and Schedules of Costs;
- drafting Points of Dispute and Replies to claims for costs;
- assisting in the preparation of costs budgets and advise on costs budgets presented by an opposing party;
- advising on retainers and fee arrangements between clients and their legal advisors;
- advising on and preparing claims for costs from public funds (Legal Aid);
- advising on disputes between solicitors and their clients;
- acting as costs mediators or arbitrators in costs disputes;
As regulated legal professionals, Costs Lawyers are authorised to undertake specific reserved legal activities:
- The conduct of litigation
- The administration of oaths
- The exercise of a right of audience, which means that you could appear in court on behalf of your clients on matters relating to costs.
As a Costs Lawyer you would have a career in law, with a focus on financial analysis. You would have to adhere to a code of conduct, undertake continuing professional development and carry professional indemnity insurance.
What does a Costs Lawyer 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. More recently, however, the introduction of costs budgeting has meant that Costs Lawyers are an integral part of a 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.
What will I be doing?
As a Costs Lawyer, your work could include:
- Advising on retainers and fee arrangements between clients and their legal advisors;
- Assisting in the preparation of costs budgets and advise on costs budgets presented by an opposing party
- Attending Costs and Case Management Conferences
- Advising on costs orders
- Drafting bills of costs and schedules;
- Drafting points of dispute and replies to points of dispute;
- Advising on costs offers and negotiate
- Attending detailed assessment hearings (advocacy)
- Instructing costs counsel to attend detailed assessment hearings
- Attending mediation (ADR)
- Dealing with the outcome of provisional assessment
- Preparing applications relevant to costs including appeals.
- Advising on and preparing claims for costs from public funds (legal aid)
- Advising on disputes between solicitors and their clients
- Acting as costs mediators or arbitrators in costs disputes
How to qualify as a Costs Lawyer
To practise as a Costs Lawyer you must first qualify as a Costs Lawyer in accordance with the Costs Lawyers Standards Board Training Rules 2023.
Part of this requirement is to have successfully completed the Costs Lawyer Qualification. Currently ACL Training is the sole provider of the Costs Lawyer Qualification in England and Wales.
What you study and how long the qualification takes depends on the qualifications you already hold. If you have no previous legal qualifications, you would need to complete all elements of the ACL Training qualification, but if you have legal qualifications such as a qualifying law degree or Graduate Diploma in Law, you could apply for exemptions.
Entry requirements (September 2023)
You don’t have to be a qualified lawyer, or to have previously studied law, to qualify as a costs lawyer.
A prior qualification is not required for entry. However, as the Costs Lawyer qualification and its constituent parts are assessed at the Regulations Qualification Framework (RQF) Level 6 it is recommended that students are able to demonstrate prior qualification equivalent to RQF Level 3 (GCSEs or equivalent) at grade C/4 in English Language and Mathematics, or have previous work experience.
The minimum age of an applicant to start the Costs Lawyer qualification is 18. Students must be 18 at the date on which study will commence with ACLT. This recommendation is in line with courses of a similar equivalent academic level e.g. undergraduate law degree.
If your first language is not English, or you have not studied your secondary education in English, you may need to demonstrate you have achieved a recognised English language qualification.
The minimum International English Language Testing System (IELTS) score required for entry to the programme is 6.0 overall with a minimum 5.5 in each component.
In addition to completing the Costs Lawyer Qualification with an accredited study provider, to practise as a Costs Lawyer you would also need to have completed, or be currently undertaking, two years of Qualifying Experience.
The Costs Lawyers Standards Board (CLSB) Training Rules describes Qualifying Experience as "work undertaken in costs law and practice for a period of two years under the supervision of a Qualified Person. During the period of Qualifying Experience, the skills in the CSLB Competency Statement must be practised at work.
The purpose of Qualifying Experience is to ensure that all qualifying Costs Lawyers have the support, mentorship and oversight needed to meet the standards in the competency Statement in a day-to-day working environment.
The two year period of Qualifying Experience may be carried out while a trainee is working toward completion of the Costs Lawyer Qualification, during the 12 months prior to them commencing the Costs Lawyer Qualification and/or after they have completed the Costs Lawyer Qualification."
Apply for a Costs Lawyer practising certificate
When you have successfully completed both the qualification and your 2 years' Qualifying Experience, you can then apply to the CLSB for a Costs Lawyer practising certificate under which you will be afforded 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
It is possible to apply for a practising certificate prior to completing the full 2 years' Qualifying Experience. Where a practising certificate is issued in these circumstances, a condition will be imposed upon your practising certificate. Once the 2 years of Qualifying Experience has been completed, you may apply to the CLSB to have the condition removed.