What do Costs Draftsmen Do?
We usually refer to these in a non-gender specific format – costs draftspeople/or costs draftsperson, but the legal profession has not changed this generally yet!
Costs Draftsmen are an interesting anomaly in the legal profession. Solicitors meet clients, give advice, write letters, issue instructions, take court action, complete application forms, prepare statements, interview witnesses, instruct counsel (barristers), attend court, enforce decisions, write even more letters and then send someone the bill.
What are Costs?
The definition of costs in the legal profession is “the remuneration of legal representatives (eg solicitors and barristers) which are controlled by statute or common law”. I am not sure how true this is at times, having been on the end of some pretty interesting figures seemingly plucked from midair, but this is the definition as provided by the Association of Costs Lawyers so it must be correct!
Why do Solicitors need Costs Draftsmen?
Simple really – a solicitor does not have the time to prepare their own bills. If they were required to (the senior partner of the first firm I ever worked for still did his own billing) you can kiss goodbye to every Saturday and Sunday between now and forever.
You would imagine that a solicitor would be able to press a button on his or her computer and it would tell him or her to bill the client for £5,350 plus VAT. Nothing to it really.
Unfortunately it does not always work like this.
On large files, particularly those which have been subject to fairly extensive court hearings, a whole industry has grown up around solicitors’ costs and the role of the costs draftsman is pivotal to this. Files can be subject to scrutiny by the courts, with costs judges assessing the costs incurred by either party and making a determination as to the true amount of costs that ought to be charged. My experience of judges trying to assess costs stems from the county court, and I have to say that most of those I have encountered seem to be inhabiting a different planet.
I attended a small claims hearing not that long ago where we won and I asked for the cost of my hotel and travel to be included. The judge wanted to know why I had chosen to stay in a hotel in zone 5 in London when the court was in zone 1. I tried to point out that the Premier Inn in zone 1 was about three times the price of the Premier Inn in zone 5, but the judge was having none of it and refused to allow me the cost of my travel ticket (an additional £5 I think). Go figure.
So what does a Costs Draftsman need to know and do?
The costs draftsman will take the solicitors’ files and draw up the bill for the client.
What’s in it for the costs company employing the costs draftsmen? They get a percentage of the solicitors’ bill. When I was practising the percentage seemed to be 5%, but it did vary according to the type of law in question.
So a costs draftsman usually has to know what an attendance note is, a file note, how much a court will typically allow for attending on a witness, what should be allowed for travel to court. They will need to know their way around various case management software (CMS) systems in order to access the records and have a very good head for figures.
Costsdraftsperson or Cost Lawyer’s Job Description
There are three areas in which Costs Draftsmen or Costs Lawyers (the Association for Costs Lawyers don’t seem to like the word “Costs Draftsman”) work:
Costs payable “between the parties”
These relates to cases that are being litigated – ie they have gone to court. The unsuccessful party is usually ordered to pay the successful party’s costs, although this does not always follow. If those costs cannot be agreed, which invariably is the case, what is called “a detailed bill” is served on the other party. They can raise objections, after which the court will decide on the amount to be paid. The process is known as “detailed assessment” (also known as a time when a judge randomly flicks through pages of costs and puts lines through about a 1/3 before handing them back).
Solicitor and “own client” costs
Own client costs are those payable by a client to his solicitor. Clients have the right to challenge a bill presented by their solicitor and again costs draftsmen will get involved to draw up a detailed breakdown of the costs on behalf of the solicitor, although they can also work on behalf of the client.
Publicly-funded (legal aid) costs
Clients funded through legal aid usually require copious amounts of form filling by the solicitors in questioin and the whole thing is nothing short of a nightmare. Throw in a barely functioning computer payment system, a pretty useless Legal Aid Agency dedicated to annoying legal aid solicitors into giving up the work and lots of half scribbled notes prepared at 2am in a police station cell, you can see why solicitors really don’t like doing their own billing! As a result it is much easier just to hand the whole lot over to some poor costs draftsmen who are still willing to do this work.
Costs Draftsmen Recruitment
Ten Percent Legal Recruitment regularly pick up vacancies across the UK for costs. There tends to be something of a huge discrepancy between costs draftsperson vacancies in the city of London and commercial firms compared with high street practices. However this is a well remunerated area of work. Most costs vacancies start at about £30k, which compared with high street solicitors is usually comparable if not higher.
Register a CV with us and we can keep you updated with any costs lawyers vacancies coming our way.