Legal Cost Specialists

What grade of fee earner is a costs lawyer or costs draftsman?

What grade of fee earner does a costs lawyer/law costs draftsman fall into?  This is a different issue as to what grade can they justify on assessment, which I will deal with on another day.

I recently commented on the subject of who qualifies as a Grade C fee earner.

By way of a quick reminder:

Grade A and B fee earners are defined as follows:

A – Solicitors with over eight years post qualification experience including at least eight years litigation experience.

B – Solicitors and legal executives with over four years post qualification experience including at least four years litigation experience.

A Grade C fee earner is defined as: “Other solicitors and legal executives and fee earners of equivalent experience”.

The Guide to Summary Assessment of Costs (page 1494 of the White Book 2010) states: “Whether or not a fee earner has equivalent experience is ultimately a matter for the discretion of the court.”

More specifically, the Guide states:

“Unqualified clerks who are fee earners of equivalent experience may be entitled to similar rates and in this regard it should be borne in mind that Fellows of the Institute of Legal Executives generally spend two years in a solicitor’s office before passing their Part 1 general examinations, spend a further two years before passing the Part 2 specialist examinations and then complete a further two years in practice before being able to become Fellows. Fellows have therefore possess [sic] considerable practical experience and academic achievement. Clerks without the equivalent experience of legal executives will be treated as being in the bottom grade of fee earner ie. trainee solicitors and fee earners of equivalent experience [Grade D].”

I’ll proceed on the basis that the costs lawyer/law costs draftsman was initially unqualified. For costs lawyers/law costs draftsmen who have previously qualified as barristers, solicitors, FILEX, etc, or possibly even possess just a law degree, different considerations will no doubt apply.

The Association of Law Costs Draftsmen has four classes of membership (or at least did when I was writing this post):

Students are registered with the Association and are required to complete one module of the training course within the first year of membership to remain as a student member. To enrol as a student applicants are not required to be employed in costs law.

Associates have completed the full training course consisting of three separate modules, attended the compulsory seminars and passed the examination of the Association at Associate level in addition they must have completed five years qualifying employment.

Fellows are full members of the Association who have qualified as Associates, passed the examination at Fellowship level and must have completed seven years qualifying employment.

Costs Lawyers are Fellows who have completed the Costs Lawyer course of the Association.

Although there is no clear-cut answer to the question, Fellows are probably about the equivalent of a Grade C fee earner, Associates arguably so. Students are obviously Grade D.

Beyond that, to be treated as the equivalent of Grade A/B fee earner would depend on the number of years’ PQE experience that had been gained.

What about law costs draftsmen who are not members of the ALCD and have not completed the ALCD training?  I would suggest somewhere north of 8 years’ experience to be Grade C status.

2 thoughts on “What grade of fee earner is a costs lawyer or costs draftsman?”

  1. In eager anticipation of the “What grade can they justify on assessment?” post a quick question for mulling over on the fee earner who ‘punches above his/her weight’.

    It stands to reason that if a Grade A fee earner does work suitable for a Grade C fee earner then only Grade C rates should be paid.

    But, suppose the unqualified and therefore Grade C fee earner is actually highly skilled and routinely handles Grade A work. What rate should be paid then?

  2. Rather than classify what grade a costs draftsman should be, the question should be what grade is required to produce the particular bill of costs. As costs draftsmen we constantly advocate at detailed assessments, on the grade of fee earner involved and the level of fee earner required to undertake particular work, the grade of fee earner required to produce the bill of costs should follow on from this.

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