The defendant costs specialists

Costs Lawyer Grade C status

By on Jul 30, 2014 | 13 comments

The recent decision of Lord Dyson to allow Costs Lawyers to potentially qualify as Grade C or Grade B fee earners raises an interesting issue.

What level of qualification and training is required for a Costs Lawyer to now potentially be classified as a Grade C fee earner?

A typical solicitor will have stayed at school until age 18, then undertaken a 3 year law degree, followed by a 1 year LPC full time course and then undertaken a two year training contract. At that stage they will be entitled to call themselves a Grade C fee earner. This is, post-age 16, a combination of 8 years full time education and training. During the 6 years of education they will have lost potential earnings. During the 4 years of a law degree and LPC will have incurred significant tuition fees. (For those undertaking a non-law degree there will be the further delay and cost of the CPE.) It is unlikely that Grade C status would be reached before the age of 24.

In contrast, the minimum academic qualifications to start the Costs Lawyer course is 4 GCSEs at grade C or above, English and Maths being compulsory. (Even this can be avoided if an aptitude test is passed.) The minimum age to start the course is 18. The Costs Lawyer course is designed to be undertaken whilst students are in full time employment. Although the course is no doubt demanding, it appears students are only required to attend a single compulsory seminar each year. To achieve Costs Lawyer status at least three years of relevant experience in costs law and practice is required before, during or after study for the Costs Lawyer qualification. The current cost of the course is a very modest £1,400 plus VAT per year. It is therefore possible to become a Grade C fee earner having left school at 16 and worked in a non-legal environment until the age of 18 and then undertaken the Costs Lawyer course over the next 3 years whilst working for a costs firm. It would be possible to attain Grade C status by the age of 21 whilst earning consistently since age 16 and for a fraction of the financial commitment of training to become a solicitor. Many Costs Lawyers earn just as much, and often much more, than a large proportion of the solicitor profession.

Of course, not all Costs Lawyer students will have such a “basic” entry level background. Many will have been law costs draftsmen for many years previously. Many will have undertaken a law degree and the LPC or BVC. Nevertheless, this does offer a surprisingly streamlined, and cheap, route to Grade C status.


  1. Let’s face it, most law graduates are wet behind the ears and know very little about any particular area of law until they actually get a job working in that area. Then it’s 3 years from then until they can achieve Grade C. There isn’t much difference between the two in terms of time spent specialising in a particular area of law, which is what should entitle you to climb the hourly rate ladder. I know that’s not the official rule, but in reality you wouldn’t be handling the type of cases that entitle to you to high hourly rates if you were not experienced enough in that area to do so.

    Pete B

    30th July 2014

  2. Apart from for advocacy are you going to recover a Grade C rate for any costs work?

    Amazing Dave

    30th July 2014

  3. @Amazing Dave,

    I’d say that – provided the level of qualification and experience is there – the costs of drafting any Bill over £100k could potentially be justified at C rate.

    I know the RCJ in Manchester take the view that the person who prepared the Bill should ideally be the person to defend it at DA

    By that logic, if the advocacy justifies Grade C so must the drafting as it would be undertaken by the same fee earner on the same file under the same retainer.

    And when you’re talking £500k+ base costs on an infant catastrophic injury file that’s gone through three firms of solicitors, five different retainers and a dozen interlocutory costs orders over the course of ten years, I see no reason why an appropriately qualified, experienced and regulated individual couldn’t recover B rates.

    Cash the Pigeon

    30th July 2014

  4. so pleased Simon followed my post in his earlier blog , and I quote:-

    “3. So a solicitor has to pass a 3 year degree course, the 1 year LPC, a 2 year training contract, then practice as a solicitor for 4 years, before being classed as “Grade C”; and yet a CLown, having done a 3 year course whilst working for a costs firm, immediately is “Grade C”??”

    Of course some CLowns have much more experience from long standing as draftsmen (lets ignore the route to ALCD Fellowship some took), but the basic fact is, the ACL is awash with raw students at the ACL’s own design, and this “decision” is a farce of epic proportions, as I am very sure what I will be seeing in Replies from now on from CLowns with letters but little entitlement


    30th July 2014

  5. Anonymous – Give yourself a big unqualified pat on the back for Simon ‘following’ your post. Although I really don’t think he did, because it’s completely wrong. Solicitors become a Grade B after 4 years of practice. I bet you feel a bit silly now eh.

    Pete B

    31st July 2014

  6. Don’t say that CLs are now going down the same route as many solicitors in believing their own hyperbole i.e. I am a Grade A fee earner therefore I should be paid £x.xx and hour no matter what I do, rather than the correct answer which is, only if the work required Grade A expertise.


    31st July 2014

  7. Don’t underestimate what it takes to become a CL:-

    Have to spend 3 years at a 2nd rate university (ex polytechnic college), just managing to scrape a 3rd class law degree (after several re-sits)

    Not realise that it is a hopeless cause, decide to throw good money after bad & blow another £10K, to scrape a mediocre pass on the LPC.

    Go on to do 5 – 10 years, making a mess of being a lowly legal clerk. Whilst getting turned down for a training contract by at least 3* different 2nd rate law firms.

    Finally admit you will never make it as a real lawyer, sell your soul to satan & sign up for the ACL trainee cost lawyers course.

    Spend next few years doing the ACL training course (as your degree has gone stale, they won’t give you an exemption as they want to milk you for all the £ that they possibly can &/or want to limit the number of CL’s so they don’t have any more competition for the limited work on offer).

    Not loose it whilst you submit a plethora of sub degree standard coursework, that will be marked by other failed lawyers……

    Finally make it as a qualified CL, after the cost industry has collapsed.

    Train to be a mediator / arbitrator (not realising no one will pay for a CL, when they could get a Barrister / retired judge).

    Finally realise you made a fricking huge mistake & sign up to CILEX.


    31st July 2014

  8. Hello Pete B
    did I say I was unqualified? Certainly not with the “plastic star” which you no doubt shine up daily
    I am glad someone was paying attention, thank you for pointing out the error.Of course, solicitors become “Grade C” upon being admitted after 6 years of study though the various mediums I mentioned, and for the most part, only have 6 months at the end of that period actually with heavily supervised actual conduct of files.
    Does the error deflect from the impact, that CLowns will now claim to be Grade C after 3 years? I doubt it, save to those with their heads buried in the sand, Mr B….Mr B?…oh, he cant hear me, must be the sand…..


    1st August 2014

  9. Awwww didums, annonymous feels hard done by, someone give him some letters after his name so that he feels important1 maybe his wife wants him to become a real man lol

    annonymousshameon you

    4th August 2014

  10. Nice to see there’s plenty of work to go round to keep people from bickering on t’internet…

    (posted whilst eating my lunch before anyone offers me a plastic star, a sarcastic comment or a Grade D for the file I’m currently working on)

    Money for Nothing

    5th August 2014

  11. @annonymousshameonyou

    Any delinquent using ‘lol’ on a legal blog, deserves absolute credence and respect. I am quite sure the poster his comments are intended to deride, has many more qualifications and letters than ‘lol’; it’s a quite shameful response to what are very valid points the original poster makes

    I respectfully suggest , anonymous…..oh who cares at the silly name you use, that you remain silent until old enough to contribute properly


    6th August 2014

  12. Sorry, does that last post make any sense at all?

    I’m beginning to wonder if the source of somebody’s resentment towards the ACL is the fact that they didn’t manage to scrape together the 4 GCSE’s…

    Grade B Ahoy

    6th August 2014

  13. Too many fools, with too little sense, taking too much delight in misunderstanding, showing why they should be quiet


    7th August 2014


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