The number of students applying for the new training course run by the Association of Costs Lawyers (ACL) has nearly doubled, with leading firms such as Irwin Mitchell, Kain Knight and Masters all supporting staff through it.
The ACL said it has 185 students registered to undertake the three-year qualification, starting this month. In previous years, the ACL has attracted around 100 students a year.
The 2014 intake is a mixture of law graduates and non-law graduates, which the ACL said “is an endorsement that the new course provides a credible first choice for those interested in pursuing a legal career in costs with associated rights to conduct reserved legal activities”.
Irwin Mitchell, which already employs 24 fully-qualified costs lawyers, is enrolling 12 staff members on the course this year. Among the specialist costs firms, Kain Knight is supporting at least 17 of its staff through the course, while Masters Legal Costs Services and Law Lords Cost Consultants have enrolled eight and seven students respectively. Some 95% of all students are sponsored by their employer.
Costs lawyer Steven Green, who heads the costs team at Irwin Mitchell, said: “We encourage all of our costs law fee-earners to undertake the ACL qualification. The qualification is very well recognised by the judiciary and the courts and I believe it has the added benefit of enabling qualified costs lawyers to achieve higher rights of audience in costs related matters and higher hourly rates than their non-qualified counterparts.”
The Master of the Rolls recently agreed that costs lawyers should be recognised in the guideline hourly rates and able to recover up to grade B rates.
Sue Nash, chairman of ACL, says: “I’m thrilled that so many students – and their employers – recognise the value of a recognised costs qualification. It shows that that the legal profession understands the value of good-quality costs advice and how central this has become.”
The new course recognises that many trainees will be in full-time employment, meaning it will be delivered through a bespoke online learning platform, accessible on mobile phones and tablets, to enable easier access to learning materials, tutor interaction and administrative support.
Another major change over the previous qualification format is that students will be examined at the end of each year.
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 become 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.