Practising certificates

Requirements for a practising certificate

In order to obtain a practising certificate, Costs Lawyers must meet the requirements in the CLSB’s Practising Rules. Our practising certificate application forms contain questions to help us establish whether you meet the criteria.

Renewing your practising certificate

Your practising certificate is valid until the end of the year in the date of issue. You therefore need to renew your practising certificate on an annual basis.

In 2020, we moved to an online system for practising certificate renewals. An email with instructions about how to complete the online forms is sent to all currently regulated Costs Lawyers in early November. If you have any concerns about this, or if you need to use hard copy forms (for example, because of a disability), please contact us and we will make adjustments for you.

Please see the FAQs below for more information about the process for renewing your practising certificate.

Reinstatement to the register

If you don’t currently have a practising certificate, but would like to start practising again part-way through the year, you will need to request an Application for Reinstatement on the Forms page of our website. We will email you a personal application form including the most recent data we hold for you. You can update this when you complete the application.

Frequently asked questions

Who should have a practising certificate

You need a practising certificate if you wish to provide services as a regulated Costs Lawyer, including by carrying out reserved legal activities. For more information about the authorised rights of Costs Lawyers, see our guidance note on reserved legal activity rights.

Yes. You won’t be able to practise as a Costs Lawyer (i.e. exercise your right to carry out reserved legal activities) unless you have a current practising certificate. If you have just completed the qualification, you can apply for a practising certificate part-way through a practising year. We will email you an application form and help you with the process when ACL Training notify us of your completion.

Yes. If you previously held a practising certificate and wish to return to practice, you should request an Application for Reinstatement on the Forms page of our website. The application form is personal to you and for speed and ease of use will contain the most recent data we hold on you. You can update this as part of the application.

The practising certificate fee will be pro rated to reflect the fact that your certificate is required for only part of the year. A £30 administration charge will be applied as a contribution to the cost of processing the application.

If you have practised for part of the preceding practising year, you will need to demonstrate that you have obtained at least one CPD point per month you were practising during that year.

Renewing your practising certificate

The practising year runs from 1 January to 31 December each year. You need to make an application towards the end of each practising year to renew your practising certificate for the following practising year.

Practising certificate renewals take place in November. We will contact you by email when it is time to renew your practising certificate. Please make sure that we have your current email address. You can contact us if you need to update your details at any time.

Your Costs Lawyer number is your unique regulatory identifier. It will start with the letters “CL” and will be followed by a series of numbers.

If you don’t know your Costs Lawyer number, you can search for your name in the Register of Costs Lawyers and your Costs Lawyer number will be displayed in your Register entry.

The deadline for submitting your renewal application is 30 November. You need to submit your application forms and pay your practising certificate fee by this date in order to receive a practising certificate for the following year. Applications are not deemed complete until the payment is received.

Prior to 2020, the deadline for submitting renewal applications was 31 December. In 2020, we brought the deadline forward to 30 November.

The main reason for this change was to accommodate the holiday period. Many people are away from work during December. You told us that this can make it difficult to complete your application forms or, if you work in a firm, to ensure that your firm’s finance team pays your practising fee before closing down for the holidays. For some organisations, 31 December is also the end of the financial year, making it a particularly busy time. Bringing the process forward to November is intended to alleviate these difficulties.

You will receive an email in early November containing a link to your renewal forms. The email will also contain instructions for completing the renewal process. Your renewal forms contain details that are personal to you, so we don’t supply forms on our website.

Application forms will be sent out by email in early November. If you have not received your forms, it might be because we do not have your current email address. Sometimes our emails might be delivered to a spam or junk folder, so please check these. Sometimes our emails cannot be delivered due to your IT set up; please make sure you have set up CLSB as a “safe sender”.

Please contact us if you have not received your application form by the end of the first week of November.

We prepopulate your application forms with the personal details that we hold for you. If any of these details are incorrect, for example because you have moved house or changed employer during the year and have not told us yet, then you can simply change the information in the form and we will update our records.

However, because we send your renewal application forms to you by email, it is essential that you let us know about any change to your email address as soon as the change occurs. You can do this by contacting us.

Please complete your forms using details of the organisation where you will be working from the beginning of the new practising year (1 January). If that is different to where you are working now, you should indicate the date of change on the application form in the box for any additional information on the declaration page. 

However, you should always ensure we have your current email address, particularly during the practising certificate renewal period. If your email address will be changing, please complete the forms using your current email address and contact us to tell about any changes as they occur.

The online application system will tell you when your application has been submitted. You will also receive a copy of your application, and an invoice, by email. If you think something has gone wrong with your application, or you do not have this email, please contact us

If you don’t submit your application by 30 November, an administration charge of £30 will apply. This is a contribution to the cost incurred by the CLSB in processing applications outside of the main application window.

At the start of each practising year, we will update the Register of Costs Lawyers. If you have not applied to renew your practising certificate by this time, your name will be removed from the Register. You will then need to make an Application for Reinstatement if you wish to start practising again.

Assuming you make your renewal application in time, you should receive your practising certificate prior to the start of the new practising year. The vast majority of practising certificates are sent out within 2 days of receipt of payment. 

Practising certificates will be provided electronically by email, so please ensure you tell us about any changes to your email address during the renewal process. You can request a hard copy practising certificate, which will be provided by post.

Please contact us to let us know if you will not be renewing your practising certificate. It is particularly helpful if you can let us know your reason for not renewing (for example, because you are retiring, leaving the profession, taking leave) as we monitor trends in this data over time. It will also help you avoid you receiving unwanted reminders from us.

Paying for a practising certificate

The charge for a practising certificate is known as the “practising certificate fee” or “PCF”. The PCF will vary from year to year, depending on two main factors:

  • the level of funding needed by the CLSB to meet its statutory obligations and ensure proper regulation and oversight of the profession; and
  • levies imposed on regulated practitioners by the Legal Services Board and the Legal Ombudsman, which are collected as part of the PCF.

We always consult on any changes to the PCF well in advance of the practising year. Our proposed PCF for each year must be approved by the Legal Services Board prior to implementation.

The PCF is pro rated for Costs Lawyers applying to be reinstated to the register part-way through a practising year. There is also a fee dispensation available for Costs Lawyers who have taken parental leave.

The best way to pay is by bank transfer (BACS). Please use your Costs Lawyer number as your payment reference. If you don’t use your Costs Lawyer number as your payment reference it will take us longer to allocate the payment to you, and therefore delay the processing of your application.

The CLSB’s account details are:

  • Sort code: 30 95 74
  • Account: 28223660

If you are unable to pay by BACS, please contact us for another option.

We have decided not to accept credit card payments in order to keep costs down for all practitioners. We will keep this under review if accepting payment by credit card becomes more affordable over time.

We need to match any bulk payments to the Costs Lawyers for whom the payment has been made. Your employer should therefore email us to inform us that a bulk payment has been made, providing the payment reference along with a list of Costs Lawyer numbers so we can match the payment to the relevant applications.

Yes. Tax relief can be claimed under SI 1126/2013 The Income Tax (Professional Fees) Order 2013.

The process for determining the practising fee starts in May each year.

• First, we develop a business plan for the coming practising year, setting out our annual priorities for achieving our mid-term strategy.

• Next, we develop a budget that reflects our fixed costs (such as salaries and overheads), the variable costs of our core regulatory work (such as supervision and enforcement) and the cost of delivering the annual priorities in the business plan.

• The budget determines our total anticipated expenditure for the year; that is, the funding we need to operate effectively. Anticipated expenditure is then divided by the number of Costs Lawyers expected to be practising during the year. This gives us the proposed practising fee. The proposed fee is agreed by the CLSB board.

• We ask Costs Lawyers for feedback on the proposed fee through a consultation process. The fee is adjusted as appropriate in response to feedback received.

• The fee must then be approved by the Legal Services Board (LSB) under its Practising Fee Rules. This involves a detailed application process whereby the fee is explained and justified to our oversight regulator. Our application is published by the LSB.

• In October, the LSB issues its decision and the practising fee is confirmed to Costs Lawyers.

You can see that a portion of our budget is made up of levies and contributions that we must pass on to other organisations – namely the Legal Services Board, the Legal Ombudsman and the Legal Choices website – to fund their activities. Each of the legal services regulators is required to make contributions on behalf of the lawyers they regulate.

In 2023, the cost per Costs Lawyer of these contributions is:
• £23.25 for the Legal Services Board 
• £7.39 for the Legal Ombudsman 
• £8.57 for Legal Choices

In 2024, the cost per Costs Lawyer of these contributions is expected to be:
• £26 for the Legal Services Board 
• £7.50 for the Legal Ombudsman 
• £8.80 for Legal Choices

You can find the levies for previous years on our Cost of Regulation page.

Because the practising certificate fee reflects both the level of funding needed by the CLSB to meet its statutory obligations and ensure proper regulation and oversight of the profession, and levies imposed on regulated practitioners by the Legal Services Board and the Legal Ombudsman, we are unable to give refunds if you cease practising partway through a practising year. A fee remission may apply in future years if you take parental leave (see Parental leave FAQs below).

Providing information with your application

You will need:

  • to check your personal details (including your organisation contact details) to ensure they are still correct;
  • information about the CPD you have carried out during the current year, to show that you have attained a minimum of 12 CPD points;
  • information about your practice during the current year, to complete the regulatory return;
  • a copy of your or your organisation’s complaints procedure and your insurance certificate (unless you work in-house or within a firm regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority);
  • any purchase order number or finance reference that you need to appear on the invoice for your practising certificate fee.

For more information about the CPD requirements that apply to Costs Lawyers, visit our CPD page.

Supporting documents, such as your complaints procedure and insurance certificate (where required), can be uploaded in the course of submitting your application. If you only have these documents in hard copy, they will need to be scanned or photographed and submitted electronically.

We collect information about you to enable us to fulfil our statutory obligations under the Legal Services Act 2007. This includes monitoring compliance with the regulatory requirements in the Costs Lawyer Handbook and helping us to better understand the nature of our regulated community.

For these purposes, we may share information about Costs Lawyers with the Legal Services Board, other approved regulators, the Legal Ombudsman and the Association of Costs Lawyers (as the profession’s representative body). We will use the email address you provide to keep you informed of regulatory matters. We will also include your details in the Register of Costs Lawyers in line with our Practising Rules.

Determining your application

There is, but we would always contact you before refusing your application.

The most common reason for refusing an application is a failure to provide the necessary supporting documentation. If you have provided the required information, your application is likely to be approved.

It is important to note that certain documents you provide – including your CPD record and complaints procedure – might be subject to audit later in the year. If the audit process shows that you have breached our regulatory rules, this could lead to your practising certificate being revoked (if you no longer meet the practising criteria in the Practising Rules) or conditions being imposed on your practising certificate. It could also lead to an investigation under our Disciplinary Rules and Procedures, for example if you have not been open and honest with us when applying for your practising certificate.

No, your application will not be automatically refused.

We will ask you for further information about your particular circumstances to allow us to assess the impact of the disclosable event on your fitness to practise. We might also seek evidence from third parties.

In serious cases, a disclosure could result in a refusal to issue you with a practising certificate or conditions being imposed on your practising certificate. In less serious cases, we might monitor the issue but take no formal action.

Guidance on the kinds of issues we consider serious, as well as aggravating and mitigating factors that we will take into account, can be found in our Policy statement on enforcement and sanctions.

Yes. Under Practising Rule 3.4, we can impose conditions on a practising certificate either when the certificate is issued or during its currency. You can find more information about the imposition of conditions in the Conditions on Practising guidance note in the Costs Lawyer Handbook.

Parental leave

Yes. If you are practising at any point during the year you need to have a valid practising certificate.

You will need to pay the practising certificate fee in full for the year in which you are commencing your leave, but you will receive a fee dispensation when you return to work. The fee dispensation is for up to one full year’s practising certificate fee, depending on how long you are on parental leave.

If you’re on parental leave (of one month or more) at the time when practising certificates are due for annual renewal you can choose whether to renew  your practising certificate as usual or temporarily come off the Register of Costs Lawyers and make an Application for Reinstatement when you return to work. This will incur a £30 administration charge, once you are back at work. 

If you renew as usual you are entitled to claim fee remission on the following year’s practising certificate fee. Please see the FAQ below for more information.

Please inform us if you do not intend to renew your practising certificate. 


If you have taken parental leave of one month or more in the previous practising year and whilst you held a valid practising certificate, you are entitled to a reduction in the fee you need to pay for the following year’s practising certificate (in applications for both annual renewal or reinstatement). The discount reflects the time spent on parental leave, but excludes any associated annual leave taken at the same time. The discount is a pro-rata amount of the practising certificate fee in the year the leave was taken. The maximum dispensation is 100% of the fee due on reinstatement.

You must provide evidence of parental leave (such as a letter from your employer, your accountant, a government body or a medical professional depending on your circumstances) to get this fee remission. 

Fee remission is calculated on the basis of parental leave only, and does not include any asscoiated annual leave taken at the same time. 

Fee remission for parental leave is calculated automatically when you apply for a practising certificate. CLSB reserves the right to amend the invoice generated if evidence of the dates you input to your application cannot be provided. 

Diversity survey

One of the CLSB’s regulatory objectives prescribed by the Legal Services Act 2007 is to encourage a strong and diverse profession. We are dedicated to creating a working and regulatory culture in which:

  • diversity is recognised and valued
  • equality of opportunity is promoted actively
  • unlawful discrimination, victimisation and harassment are exposed and never tolerated.

The diversity survey, which may focus on different issues at different times, is an important way of monitoring diversity within the profession. We also work to remove arbitrary barriers to entry, providing resources and guidance for Costs Lawyers, and ensuring our own internal policies and regulatory arrangements (including our Disciplinary Rules and Procedures) promote equality and diversity. For more information see our equality and diversity webpage.

As all Costs Lawyers have to apply annually for a practising certificate this is a good time to ask you to complete the survey.

No. We will ask you to complete a short diversity survey when you submit your application for a practising certificate. This helps us meet our obligations under the Legal Service Act to promote a strong and diverse Costs Lawyer profession. The responses you provide to the survey are anonymised and not linked to your application for a practising certificate in any way. See our Privacy Policy for more details or contact us if you have any questions.


FAQs relating to the determination of Qualifying Experience, for which documentation may need to be submitted as part of an application for a first practising certificate, are available on the How to become a Costs Lawyer webpage