Trainee Costs Lawyer profile - Oliver

Oliver Walsh, trainee Costs Lawyer at Knapp Richardson in London. 

Oliver gives his thoughts on his career so far and why he is studying to become a Costs Lawyer.

Tell us about your firm, job role and your educational background. 
I work for Knapp Richardson, a firm of Costs Lawyers and draftspeople based in Central London, where I am currently working as a trainee Costs Lawyer.  I have assisted on a wealth of various types of matters, and more recently have been undertaking instructions in my own capacity. I am currently undertaking the ACLT Costs Lawyer course and I am on my third year.  In terms of educational background, the highest level of education I had achieved prior to undertaking the course were A Levels in Maths (A), Psychology (B) and Law (B).

What does your firm do? 
Knapp Richardson deals with a wide range of costs-related matters, from moderate housing disrepair claims to complex corporate actions.  We are experienced in preparing a range of costs related documents, to include N260 statements of costs, budgets and discussion reports, and electronic bills of costs, sometimes worth several millions.

What does your day-to-day work involve
My work varies significantly from day to day, but largely involves preparing a number of costs related documents and, more recently, preparing points of dispute/conducting negotiations on more moderate claims in my own capacity. In terms of documents prepared, these are most often budgets and N260 statements of costs, which I prepare in draft and are then reviewed by a supervising colleague.  I have also assisted on more significant bills of costs which required a team effort to complete. 

What attracted you to a career in costs law?
I initially joined Knapp Richardson as an administration assistant via an apprenticeship scheme for some work experience – and then never left!  As I progressed in my career I was becoming engaged in more comprehensive tasks, taking on a larger role within the company.  I was enjoying the work, and it was suggested I should apply for the Costs Lawyers course to make the next step in my career.  

What do you enjoy most about your work / what has been a particularly memorable matter to work on? 
I particularly enjoy the spreadsheet analysis aspect of the work – including data manipulation and working with different formulas.  But ultimately the most important thing for me is that our client’s receive a valuable and efficient service. Probably the most memorable matter I worked on was assisting with the production a large bill of costs (ultimately valued at around £3.5 million).  I had already learnt a lot about Costs Lawyers’ work up to this point, and it was really rewarding applying all these newfound skills and knowledge to a significant matter like this.

What made you decide to study the ACLT course? 
I wanted to take the next step in my career working within my firm.  Whilst I was learning a wealth of skills in relation to costs drafting simply by doing my job, I was limited on knowledge of the relevant law (i.e., why I was doing it).  The ACLT course has been able to fill that gap, and more.  And soon I will be a fully fledged costs lawyer in my own right, able to conduct more and more tasks in my own capacity.

What advice would you give to those studying the ACLT course? 
Read everything!  Including those sections that aren’t relevant to your current assignment and all the reading material for your tutorial activities.  All of it will be worthwhile, especially for your eventual exam preparation.  Personally I have also uncovered some useful titbits for my work – things that not even my colleagues had picked up on in their 30+ years of experience!

Tell us about the impact using a Costs lawyer can make! 
I always say that whilst a solicitor can do anything a Costs Lawyer can, a Costs Lawyer can do it more accurately and efficiently.  I have seen some very… ‘interesting’ looking budgets and N260s in my short time in this career, often rushed out by a solicitor unfamiliar with the process.  My first thought is always, If you had instructed a costs lawyer for that, it would have been done in less time, less cost, and would have looked 10x better!  Not to mention, a comprehensive and well-drafted document is often a deciding factor in your recovery at any assessment process. 

Added April 2023