Case study

Costs lawyer — Andrew McAulay

Andrew has become a costs lawyer without a university education. Discover how he reached his current position as an equity partner and what he enjoys most about the role

How did you get your job as a costs lawyer?

I'm an equity partner at Clarion Solicitors, a law firm in Leeds. I studied A-levels and applied to university but was unsure if this was the right career decision for me. A careers advisor who had some training roles available at Clarion suggested I looked at these, one in pensions and one in law.

I selected law as I'd studied it at A-level and the role involved working with numbers, which I enjoyed. I thought I'd do this for a year, build up some savings and then go to university. I really enjoyed the experience and so decided to stay at Clarion and develop my career there.

I started on the CILEX programme, then began my ACL training to become a costs lawyer. The training was excellent and I enjoy learning new skills, so this was the ideal environment for me to learn in.

What are your main work activities?

My work is very varied - it could involve anything from client work to team management, assisting on internal projects, preparing and delivering an external seminar, looking after clients, networking and entertaining. A day could involve preparing slides and researching a topic to present at a seminar, opening a new client file, attending meetings, organising staff awards and conducting an appraisal. It's a real mix of legal work, management, business development and internal projects.

What do you enjoy most about your role as a costs lawyer?

I enjoy being part of a big firm. Since becoming a partner I'm surrounded by higher profile people, and find I'm still learning from them and developing all the time. When you reach a certain level you're trusted to get on with the work, and I enjoy this level of autonomy.

In particular I enjoy negotiating, utilising litigation tactics and dealing with money. I love running the team, finalising budgets for the financial year, working on salaries and targets and calculating the gross margin.

Because I manage the department, my role feels like running your own business within a business. I enjoy public speaking and presenting legal costs and litigation funding at our events.

I'm glad I stayed at Clarion and have developed my career here. If you're amongst talented and motivated people, you tend to grow and realise your own ambitions.

What are the challenges?

Working to tight deadlines can be a challenge. As a manager, you're accountable for your team's performance and also to ensure your team is cohesive, look after your team members' wellbeing and their professional development.

The pressure can be tough and you need to run the team as a business. A calm and measured approach is important to maintain. I take each day as it comes and have a steady, logical and methodical approach to prioritising work and meeting client and management expectations.

How has your role developed and what are your career ambitions?

I started as a trainee in the costs department and have worked my way up to equity partner. My ambition is to become the managing partner at Clarion.

What advice can you give to others wanting to get into this job?

  • Be a good communicator and be able to adapt your style and learn from others doing the job. You'll need to negotiate on behalf of your clients. Public speaking skills are important as well as written skills, such as the ability to accurately summarise complex reports. You could start to build these skills now by for example costing out a venue for an event, negotiating a discount on a service or securing sponsorship for a charity.
  • You need to be organised, with particular emphasis on time management and prioritisation. You need to be able to plate-spin without being overwhelmed. Start to keep a diary, learn practical life skills and develop a common sense approach to problem solving.
  • Self-development and commitment to lifelong learning is important, as is being someone who enjoys a challenge.

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