The Costs Lawyer Standards Board (CLSB) has proposed a radical shake-up of training, moving to an outcomes-based model where candidates would qualify by passing three tests, irrespective of how they have gained their knowledge.
The CLSB said it wanted to promote access and “encourage unregulated costs professionals to enter the regulated community”, against a background where it expected more Costs Lawyers to leave the profession from 2019 than join it.
Its proposed Costs Lawyer Competence Test (CLCT) follows the lead of the Solicitors Regulation Authority with its mooted Solicitors Qualifying Examination.
A consultation paper explained: “Rather than the current prescriptive and expensive three-year programme of study, this proposal enables aspiring Costs Lawyers to prepare for assessment and develop skills and experience in a range of ways of their choice: work experience, self-study (prescribed text books) or undertaking any training offered by any provider on the various subject matters to be tested.
“Candidates can also prepare at their own pace. What becomes the main focus is not what an individual has done by way of preparation, but to test competence against standard at the point of qualification.”
The first test would cover the English legal system (part 1(a)) and the second costs law and practice (part 1(b)), both of which would be three-hour multiple choice examinations. The third test (part 2) would be an oral practical assessment, focusing on the candidate’s professional legal skills, including advocacy.
The test criteria would address regulatory issues, such as lay clients, vulnerable consumers, insurance, complaints procedures and client monies.
The CLSB said multiple-choice was “an effective and inexpensive method of assessment commonly used now in professional education… [It also] removes the personal judgement inevitably present in assessing essays and coursework, and avoids challenges (re-marks) on the grounds of academic judgement”.
Solicitors, barristers, chartered legal executives and those with law degrees would be exempt from part 1(a), with solicitors and barristers also exempt from part 2.
Costs draftsmen who could show five years of work-based experience would be able to take the tests, as would more junior staff with a minimum of three years’ experience supervised by a Costs Lawyer and who have collected 15 CPD points for each of those years. This last category would also have to be supervised by a Costs Lawyer for two years after qualification.
The CLSB said its approach would remove eight “barriers to entry”: onerous academic/education-only means of entry into the profession; onerous study programme while working; only having one provider of the Costs Lawyer qualification; the cost of entry into the profession; inadequate historical exemptions for the legally qualified; experienced costs draftsmen not seeking to enter the profession; the minimum age requirement of 18; and the minimum level of education criteria.
“This proposal acknowledges that a school environment may not have been a positive experience, with a positive outcome for all. It seeks to offer subsequent opportunity to a professional career in the law,” the CLSB said.
The consultation is open until 22 June. Click here for the details.