As an experienced costs lawyer, Mark deals with the assessment and costs management process. Find out more about his work and his top tips for getting into this niche area of the law
What degree did you study?
I studied psychology at the University of Plymouth. I then undertook a three-year professional qualification with the Association of Costs Lawyers (ACL) to become a qualified costs lawyer.
How did you get your job?
A friend from university, who studied law, was working as a trainee costs lawyer with Paragon Costs Solutions. He informed me they were looking for an entry-level costs draftsman. I applied for the role and he recommended me to the firm. Following an interview and a training period, I was hired and the rest is history.
What's a typical working day like?
I can spend entire days, if not weeks, drafting a single bill of costs, which involves reviewing my client's files and inputting the work done into software in order to maximise their costs recovery.
I can, however, also spend time engaged in negotiations, preparing advices for clients or engaged in business development.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
The law in my specific area is always developing and there is constant change. This means I have to work hard to be at the top of my game. I also need to have an understanding of all areas of litigation as my clients' work can range from clinical negligence to agriculture. This diversity of work keeps me challenged, and that is the part I enjoy most.
What are the challenges?
My clients are nearly always other lawyers, usually from large national firms. I need to always be at my best to provide the service these clients deserve. I also need to constantly be aware of the developments in the law in order to advise my clients.
On the other hand, there are occasions when I am spending two-to-three months drafting a single bill of costs. Keeping yourself motivated and working at an efficient level consistently can be very challenging.
In what way is your degree relevant?
Although my degree subject isn't directly relevant, I wouldn't have got an interview for my job without a degree. My degree taught me transferable skills in terms of preparing reports, time management and working in a professional manner.
How has your role developed and what are your career ambitions?
I started as a costs draftsman and am now a qualified costs lawyer. My progression will be to achieve associate and then partnership in my firm. I will also develop into different areas of costs law, i.e. mediation and advocacy.
What advice can you give to others wanting to become a costs lawyer?
- Costs law is a very niche area. Most people will not know about it until they become lawyers. Even though I have not done so myself, I would advise studying law as a degree. This will give you a basic understanding of the different areas of law.
- Try and get work experience in a costs firm. Costs law is not for everyone and there is a high turnover of staff at the junior level because of it. Getting some first-hand experience will help you decide if the job is for you.
- You do not need any qualifications to work in costs. There are plenty of entry-level positions where you can train to be a costs lawyer while working full time. However, be aware that there is a large learning curve with this approach.