Employers join forces to develop costs lawyer apprenticeship

Walkden: Looking to tap into talent at an earlier opportunity

Fifteen law firms and the Government Legal Department have joined forces to develop the newest legal apprenticeship, for costs lawyers, with final approval of the scheme anticipated in the summer.

The Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education has already accepted the need for the apprenticeship and is currently assessing a draft occupational standard created by the costs lawyer apprenticeship employer trailblazer group.

If approved, it will then go to the Department for Education for final sign-off.

The apprenticeship is pitched at Level 6 and will take three years to complete, with apprentices having a study day each week and gaining the required qualifying work experience to lead to qualification as a regulated costs lawyer.

The expectation is that the apprenticeship levy will be available to the benefit of both large and small employers.

Coming together in response to a call for interest from ACL Training – an arm of the Association of Costs Lawyers – the 16 employers formed the trailblazer group and only started meeting last September but has worked rapidly since.

The ACL and the regulator, the Costs Lawyer Standards Board, are strongly supporting the move to open up careers in costs to school leavers and others looking for a route into law.

The group’s members are drawn from six specialist costs firm – Arc Costs, Carter Burnett, Cost Experts, KE Costs, Phoenix Legal Services and Your Legal Services – as well as nine solicitors’ firms: Browne Jacobson, Clarion Solicitors, Irwin Mitchell, Keoghs, Lyons Davidson, MSB Solicitors, Slater & Gordon, Switalskis and Winn Group. The other member is the Government Legal Department.

It is chaired by Paula Walkden, head of costs delivery and a senior associate at Irwin Mitchell. She said: “Many people working in costs got there through a circuitous route that started elsewhere in the law. We want to promote the benefits of costs as a career so that we can tap into talent at an earlier opportunity and focus their training on costs.

“At Irwin Mitchell, we have found that school students who have work experience in the costs team then ask if an apprenticeship is available. It will be great when we can say it is.”

Ms Walkden explained that the standards reflect what employers want in terms of skills, knowledge and behaviours, with reference to the competency statement produced by the Costs Lawyer Standards Board.

She continued: “The skillset of costs lawyers is changing. Rather than just focusing on drafting bills, they need more extensive litigation skills too. The opportunity to do more is there – costs lawyers get to see the whole case laid bare and can add a lot of value to the team.”

Madeleine Jenness, the head of education of ACL Training, said there would still be demand for, and reason to access, the costs lawyer qualification outside of an apprenticeship.

“ACL Training sees opening up more routes to becoming a costs lawyer as core to our purpose and the apprenticeship will raise awareness of costs lawyering to a younger audience.

“Apprenticeships will not be right for every person or every firm but in particular the levy offers a way for smaller practices to train up staff in a cost-effective and accessible way.”

ACL chair Jack Ridgway added: “The apprenticeship is terrific news for the profession. With the senior judiciary putting an ever-greater focus on costs control, costs lawyers have moved out of the shadows to play strategic roles within litigation teams on top of their expert management of costs matters.

“It is a career in law that offers a lot of opportunities for students, making this a perfect time to develop the costs lawyer apprenticeship.”

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