From education to employment

How to become a Costs Lawyer – it’s easier than you think

Law is considered one of the most lucrative industries in today’s employment market but as Des Hudson, chief executive of the Law Society, once warned, thousands of law graduates will never secure a job in the legal industry, as there just aren’t enough training contracts, and they run the risk of being left with thousands of pounds worth of debt. Universities and colleges can charge up to £9,000 a year for courses but there are alternative options available to students. Kirsty Allison, solicitor and course director of the new Association of Costs Lawyers (ACL), tells us more.

You may have been one of the thousands of students that received their A-level results recently and might be feeling disappointed you didn’t get into the university of your choice. Or perhaps you chose not to go down that road altogether, deterred by the high costs of a university education. Either way if you would love a career in law, then becoming a costs lawyer could be an option for you.

In 2007 the Legal Services Act was passed, which set out a list of all legal activities solicitors and barristers carry out. These activities are known as reserved legal activities. Under the Act costs lawyers can now carry out a variety of reserved legal activites, including work which previously they had not been allowed to do. Although the role of a costs lawyer is very different to that of a solicitor, (even though some costs lawyers are quafilied solicitors), there are certain elements of their role that are similar which is a massive step forward in terms of recognition of their expertise. A qualified costs lawyer has the right to go to court, represent clients in areas related to cost matters and start court proceedings. As a result of these changes, and the increasing interest in becoming a costs lawyer, the ACL has upgraded their existing training programme to create an online learning course which will allow students to study part time alongside their work commitments.

About the course

The three-year qualification starting in September 2014 will be provided via an online learning environment. It’s a bespoke site designed by digital design agency, Mickey & Mallory. The course provides a credible first choice for those interested in pursuing a legal career in costs, with associated rights to conduct reserved legal activities. Mickey & Mallory have helped to create an extensive amount of online content for the site which will be accessible on mobile phones and tablets, to enable easier access to learning materials. There are over 100 online activities with online tutorials in place each week. Our designers have also built in forums to allow each tutor group to share information. As social networking sites are proving to be a useful tool in education , Mickey & Mallory have also embedded Twitter into the forum to allow for the sharing of material and resources.

Students take three units, one each year, broken down into various modules. The first two years of the course cover all the fundamental building blocks to becoming a costs lawyer – from knowledge of procedure to ethics and advocacy – while in the third year there are options to allow for specialisation in the costs of different areas of practice, such as personal injury and clinical negligence, land law, criminal law, company law, and family law. As a Level 6 course, it has university level equivalence and students must gain practical and relevant work experience to coincide with their academic studies.

How to qualify

The training branch of the Association of Costs Lawyers (ACLT) are the only authorised providers of the qualification and our 2014 students come from a variety of backgrounds. The intake for 2014 includes a mixture of law graduates, non-law graduates and school leavers, which is an endorsement that the new course provides a credible first choice for those interested in pursuing a career as a costs lawyer. We accept students with a minimum of relatively good GCSE results, however to study with ACLT students need to be at least 18 years of age.

It’s important that students realise there are other avenues open to them which will enable them to enter the legal field. The traditional route to qualification as a lawyer means that after students complete a law degree, at such a huge expense, they then need to study a post graduate qualification and undertake up to two years of work based training which can be extremely difficult to source. We are offering students the chance to break into the world of law, without the burden of such financial strain or the need for high A-level achievement. The qualification and training is akin to a specialised legal apprenticeship and offers the same kind of opportunities and equivalent remuneration.

The qualification is very well recognised by the judiciary and the courts, and enables qualified costs lawyers to charge higher hourly rates than their non-qualified counterparts.

Kirsty Allison is a solicitor and course director of the new Association of Costs Lawyers

Related Articles