The Costs Lawyer Standards Board (CLSB) has issued a consultation on a draft competency statement that aims to “articulate the knowledge and skills that a competent Costs Lawyer is expected to possess and apply when they enter the profession”.
The statement will set a benchmark against which it can judge training courses, both for trainees and CPD, and establish “a de minimis standard of work for qualified Costs Lawyers”, the regulator said.
It should also provide providers of the Costs Lawyer qualification with “more flexibility in the way they deliver the course and ensure that students receive the training they need to prepare them for costs practice in the modern world”.
The statement sets out the categories of legal and technical knowledge that a Costs Lawyer will possess at the point of qualification; the skills that a Costs Lawyer will demonstrate; the minimum standard to which the Costs Lawyer’s knowledge and skills will be applied; and the professional attributes that will help a Costs Lawyer meet the minimum standard and progress successfully beyond qualification.
The CLSB said its research identified nine core areas of legal and technical knowledge that all qualifying Costs Lawyers should possess: civil litigation, other litigation, legal aid, contract law, tort, budgeting, bills of costs, points of dispute and replies, and professional standards and ethics.
The competency statement does not detail the specific topics that should be covered within each area of knowledge, but it indicates the relative depth and breadth of knowledge required in each one.
The seven core skills comprise: relationship management, case management, self-management, agile thinking, effective communication, negotiation and advocacy. Behavioural indicators provide examples of what each skill looks like when someone displays or lacks it.
The minimum standard then sets the bar against which competency will be measured and assessed.
The consultation said: “It is important to recognise that the minimum standard is a gateway to qualification, and thus to the profession. It must be set sufficiently high to achieve the purposes of regulation, including protecting the interests of consumers and promoting adherence to the professional principles.
“However, it must not be set so high as to impose a disproportionate regulatory burden or be counter to the regulatory objective of encouraging a strong, diverse and effective profession.”
The statement goes on to list eight professional attributes that are “particularly important” for enabling Costs Lawyers to apply their skills and knowledge in a way that meets or exceeds the minimum standard: self-sufficient, diligent, accountable, curious, proactive, professional, commercial and inclusive.
“Unlike the knowledge and skills identified in the competency statement, we do not envisage requiring newly qualified Costs Lawyers to demonstrate these attributes to a particular standard or requiring training providers to specifically assess the attributes.
“However, a newly qualified Costs Lawyer will find it easier to meet the level of competency expected of them (and to meet the expectations of their employer) if they have developed these attributes during their training.”
The CLSB said it undertook “extensive research and engagement” with stakeholders, through: semi-structured interviews with 11 junior and supervising Costs Lawyers; work diaries from five recently qualified Costs Lawyers, along with job specifications provided by employers; a roundtable with five “leaders in their fields giving us insights into the skills that Costs Lawyers are likely to need in the future”; a second roundtable during which six other senior Costs Lawyers considered the emerging findings; desk research into the experience of competency frameworks introduced by other professions; and panel of five “pre-eminent experts in professional education and competency”.
The consultation closes on 18 October.