Kirsty Allison, the head of education at ACL Training, has urged the Costs Lawyer Standards Board (CLSB) to approve the ACL’s revised course and called for Costs Lawyers to respond to the CLSB’s consultation on its proposed Costs Lawyer Competence Test.
In the wake of the CLSB’s decision to suspend any further intake onto the three-year Costs Lawyer qualification – based on ACLT forecasts of student numbers – there is currently no route to qualify as a Costs Lawyer.
Ms Allison (pictured) said: “The decision came after the CLSB told the oversight regulator, the Legal Services Board, that removing the three-year rule would allow the modules of the Costs Lawyer qualification to be re-worked to provide for the qualification to be achieved in two years.
“Based on such representations, ACL established a working party and invested resources to put together a proposal for a two-year qualification for consideration by the CLSB. The proposal took into account the data collated and feedback received by ACLT.
“The CLSB has now responded to ACL’s proposal, advising that it aspires to remove a single means of entry into the profession but that its resources are being deployed solely on the CLCT.”
She said that, in its response, the CLSB criticised ACLT for not having financially re-structured in light of the potential drop in trainees between now and 2020, asserting that both parties knew that the interest in the revised qualification was “simply not there”.
Ms Allison said: “The level of interest in the revised qualification cannot be known because ACLT have not been afforded the opportunity to find out – marketing the course is impossible without the CLSB’s endorsement of it.”
She pointed out that the level of interest in the CLCT was similarly unknown. At February’s EGM, Costs Lawyers voted down the idea of letting unqualified costs people into the association, with the common complaint being that members had not received enough information to make the decision.
Ms Allison said: “The same criticism can be made in relation to the CLCT. The recently published consultation papers raise more questions than they answer, especially given there is no evidence within the papers of the underlying work or research undertaken by the CLSB.”
She pointed to the CLSB’s statement that the current course was too onerous to complete alongside work. However, last year four students withdrew from Unit 3 of the course, but none cited workload as the reason; in fact, she said, three of them did so temporarily and planned to return the following academic year.
“The evidence that ACLT has conflicts with that which the CLSB appears to have relied upon. The CLSB also needs to clarify certain aspects of the consultation. For example, the exemption policy does not distinguish between a qualifying and a non-qualifying law degree, nor does it appear to provide for those who have completed alternative legal qualifications.
“There are many questions that members are likely to have about what the CLCT may look like, and what some of the consultation papers mean. By Costs Lawyers responding to them, I hope the process will not only help shape the proposal but also build the CLSB’s understanding of the skills required in the workplace, such as the importance of drafting.
“It is imperative that the CLCT addresses the essentials and gets to the core of expected knowledge and experience.”
Ms Allison suggested that the CLSB hold an open forum to encourage debate.