Legal Cost Specialists

ACL Training

The only body authorised to provide the Costs Lawyer qualification is ACL Training.  This is wholly owned by the Association of Costs Lawyers.  This is not a stich up but simply a reflection of the fact the demand for training has always been so limited that no other academic organisation would dream of trying to set up an alternative training programme and jump through the hoops required to obtain authorisation.

ACL Training has gone through a strange period.

Back in September 2014 it was announced, with some fanfare, that almost 200 students had signed up to the new training course to become Costs Lawyers.  The exact number was, apparently, 189.

The number of new students for that year was always misleadingly high:

  1. There had been no new students enrolled the previous year as the course had been suspended whilst it was comprehensively redesigned post-Jackson. In reality, it was two years’ worth of students rolled into one.
  2. The figures included a number of experienced law costs draftsmen who had finally decided to make the jump to become qualified Costs Lawyers. This was, no doubt, partly in the belief that formal qualification would enhance employability in a post-Jackson world where the number of costs jobs was likely to decline.
  3. As this was shortly after the Jackson reforms had been introduced, this was in the rather artificial environment where costs budgeting was generating additional work but the adverse impact of Jackson had not yet started to work through into the system. In some quarters, during this brief period, it looked as though overall work levels might not drop.  This no doubt encouraged some to seek qualification.

The recent edition of Costs Lawyer magazine records 97 students as having recently taken final year exams.  This would be from the 2014 intake of 189 students.  This suggests a very high level of drop-out/failure during the previous 3 years.

The post-Jackson environment is now taking its toll.

The number of new student for this year is 20.

Unsurprisingly, ACL Training is projected to start making significant losses over the next few years.  It seems unlikely it can possibly continue in its current form.

11 thoughts on “ACL Training”

  1. Scathing but truth, ACLT has been badly managed- all potential for good things has dissipated.

    The best will still continue to not only survive but thrive in the years to come…

  2. Considering the new Intermediate track fixed costs in Pi, and capped in everything else up to £100,000 – and just as importantly the Commercial pilot scheme for fixed fees in matters to £500,000, I am not sure why the ACL course is even advertised anymore.

    At what point is it a product that no longer needs to exist?

  3. It needs a complete and total re-vamp. Most students drop out because the content is not relevant for those already in practice. It doesn’t offer anything over and above those already in practice besides having the title “Costs Lawyer”.

  4. Good article Simon.
    Comments are slightly concerning!
    My understanding is that the majority of the first intake of students ‘dropped out’ in year one of the course. I think following on from Simon’s article it’s fairly clear a percentage of these may have been made redundant by employers or perhaps had never studied any law before and couldn’t cope with the demands of the course.
    I think there is probably some merit in the comment made on the content of the course but only if you go by the CLSB minimum syllabus and if you only have knowledge of year one of the course. If you look at what is later on in the course and consider that ACLT have also added to the CLSB minimum syllabus then the comments is not so credible.
    The course has now been up and running for a while – I think it was established a long time ago that work needed to be done on running order of modules and exemptions to afford ACLT some more flexibility in delivery – I’m also surprised the CLSB aren’t reviewing the course syllabus as part of their qualification overhaul.

  5. As someone who has just completed the course. I have to say I disagree with the previous comments.
    The course offers a lot more than just a title. The content is relevant and beneficial to those new to costs and those who already work in costs. There are many different areas of costs law covered in the course – not everyone will have experience of all of the areas in their employment so it is good to gain further knowledge and experience.
    It is also worth noting that those with a law degree, LPC etc are exempt from quite a few of the ‘non-costs’ modules. I understand that the CLSB has further considered exemptions in the recent consultation.
    The course is still relatively new and as with anything there is always room for improvement. Feedback was sought throughout the course and the views of students seem to have been taken on board and considered.
    The course is not perfect by any stretch of the imagination but I still believe it is worthwhile.

  6. The first 3 comments are sadly misguided. The minimum syllabus is set by CLSB and as Simon rightly points out approves a training provider to deliver the course. Any ire as to course content should therefore be directed at CLSB.

    The course is taught to level 6 standard: degree level. Student retention levels in year 1 will have been due to a number of factors but as the last commenter identifies many will have found it too demanding. Some firms also withdrew support for their employee students or made them redundant as the financial and legal landscape forced a pinch in budgets.

    The course does not just teach basic costs but has a wider legal syllabus which are equivalent to other law degree, LPC and BVC modules. It is far more than how to draft a bill or budget or recognise a fixed cost case when it comes along. I wonder how many more ‘experienced’ costs practitioners could pass without significant further learning. Not many I suggest.

    A practising certificate also requires minimum supervised practice, undertaken along side the course where the day to day costs education and experience is gained.

    The feedback of those who have successfully completed the new course is overwhelmingly positive.

    This year’s limited intake is no doubt influenced by rumours of a shorter course and widening of exemptions – developments which are far from being approved.

    Ongoing development of the course product is welcome but it’s benefits should not be underestimated

  7. I joined the ALCD after they implemented a course to become a full member and became a costs lawyer (albeit for a very short period of time) in one of the earliest in takes for cost lawyers.

    A colleague is currently on year 3 of the course and I can see that the course product is superior to what was being offered when I trained and it is also superior to the course that was first offered when the rank of ‘costs lawyer’ was created.

    It appears to be that there is not much wrong with the current course offered. What does concern me is that there are costs lawyers (as I understand it) that have never done a course or passed an exam and there are costs lawyers that have gained the qualification through a much weaker course. This diminishes the title.

    The second, perhaps bigger, issue is the move to fixed costs. We are fast approaching an environment where there is less work to go around and the cutting your teeth work will be gone. Though it does seem that that effort required with budgeting and electronic bill preparation may mean that some are doing less work but spending a little more time doing it.

    I am uncertain what the future holds for the ACL , the course and the CLSB.

  8. Well, I first joined many many years ago in the days when there was less than 250 Fellows in the whole of the u.k!

    I did learn many things over the years from the course content but sadly the mismanagement of the ACL over the last 6-7 years has left us hanging up the creek with no rope!

    The ACL didn’t move with the times, CILEX did, even Civil Mediators did.

    There is still place for a competent costs person in the right place, question is what is competent nowadays? So many talk the talk having little or no experience of dealing with bad tempered Judges in chambers, litigants in person or clients direct, for so many their status is their job title and nothing more.

    Lets not pretend anymore, the false economy in the costs world is slowly unravelling, the “big shot” costs firms of yesteryear (who I personally feel should share some of the blame for creating this false economy) cant pay their bills or even worse their staff. When I hear all this “the writings on the wall” talk , I just chuckle to myself, the writing has been removed from the wall, the wall has been knocked down and replaced with a table, on that table there is report by LJ Jackson, and a handwritten note saying “contentious to fixed, you are the weakest link goodbye”. Wake up people.

  9. Options are

    1) to try to increase numbers by allowing direct entry as CL via exam / reference from Judge etc.

    2) ACL to merge with CILEX or similar…

  10. Costs Draftsman

    I have resisted doing the course for a number of years as I simply do not believe the benefits of qualification justify the vast amount of time and study required. I know probably a dozen people who have enrolled in the past few years and none of them have anything especially positive to say about the experience. A number dropped out due to frustration with how the course was being run and the demands placed upon them. The handful that did complete the course have said that although they are proud of their achievement, it really hasn’t made much difference to their professional career and they almost wish they hadn’t bothered!

    The ACL clearly has a lot of work to do if it is going to survive.

  11. Pingback: Changes to Costs Lawyer training | Legal Costs Blog

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