The Legal Services Board (LSB) is apparently minded to refuse the Cost Lawyer Standards Board’s (CLSB) proposals to introduce a new route of entry into the profession.
The LSB chief executive Neil Buckley said:
“Having considered the application and responses provided by the CLSB to a number of issues that the LSB has raised, the proposed changes continue to raise significant questions for the LSB and, as a result, we are considering refusing the application under paragraph 25(3) of schedule 4 to the [Legal Services] Act.”
Mr Buckley said the proposed approach to granting rights of audience appeared “inadequate” and to contradict the wider outcomes-focused approach of the CLCA:
“In particular, the proposal to allow for rights of audience to be gained through attendance at a one day training course, with no assessment, is at odds with the CLSB’s rationale for the CLCA, to shift away from an inputs based model and towards an outcomes-focussed assessment based model. The proposal would appear to set the bar considerably lower than other approved regulators in relation to awarding rights of audience. The CLSB has not presented sufficient evidence to justify this approach.”
It is not clear whether the LSB is aware that the majority of current Costs Lawyers gained their rights of audience through no more than attendance at a one or two-day training course with no assessment.
I wrote about this in 2011. At the time, I commented that:
“In relation to advocacy, the ACL has not set the bar too low. It never set one in the first place and shows no plans to do so in the future.”
The LSB appears to be concerned that the CLSB is now in danger of repeating the same error in relation to its new proposed qualification route.
In relation to the old ACL training course, I wrote:
“There appear to be one of two ways of viewing this issue:
- Advocacy, at least in relation to detailed assessment proceedings, is something requiring little or no skill or experience. This includes costs appeals before High Court Judges and Circuit Judges. A level of “competence” can be achieved by those who may have had no previous advocacy experience in a 3 hour training session. Any form of initial or ongoing assessment is entirely unnecessary given how undemanding costs advocacy is. In this context, the ACL’s chairman’s comment that some of its members should be saying in big cases: ‘Don’t instruct a barrister. I can do this’ makes perfect sense. The ACL granting higher rights of audience as though they were handing out Smarties is nothing to be concerned about.
- Advocacy, at whatever level, is indeed a specialist skill that requires proper training and should be properly assessed. The ACL Costs Lawyer course should ensure that those standards have been met before granting higher rights of audience. The course is not fit for purpose.”
If the LSB is concerned that the proposed new training course is inadequate in respect to the granting of rights of audience, how does it judge the competency of many existing Costs Lawyers who achieved their rights of audience under the old ACL (one/two day) training route?