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 for one year from the date of issue. You therefore need to renew your practising certificate on an annual basis.

In 2020, we will be moving to an online system for practising certificate renewals. We will send you an email with instructions about how to complete the online forms. 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.

The deadline for submitting your application for a 2021 practising certificate will be 30 November 2020. You will receive your renewal forms by email in good time before the deadline. Please make sure you let us know about any changes to your email address as early as possible.

We will update the FAQs below throughout 2020 with 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 complete an Application for Reinstatement. The application form is available on the Forms page of our website.

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 are newly qualified, you can apply for a practising certificate part-way through a practising year. We will contact you upon qualification to help you with the process.  

Yes. If you previously held a practising certificate and wish to return to practice, you should complete an Application for Reinstatement. The application form is available on the Forms page of our website.

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 at 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. 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 where requested.

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.

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.  

Please assume we have received your form unless there is a specific reason to be concerned (for example, you experienced a system error). The annual renewals period is a busy time for our staff and dealing with enquiries about the receipt of forms means it will take us longer to process everyone’s applications.

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.

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 tends 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.

As the practising certificate fee is a regulatory levy, rather than a payment for services, we don’t issue invoices. A Fee Note, which specifies the fee required, can be downloaded as part of the online application process, and forwarded to your Finance Department if necessary.

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.

Providing information with your application

You will need:

  • to check your personal details to ensure they are still correct;
  • information about the CPD you have carried out during the year, to show that you have attained a minimum of 12 CPD points;
  • information about your practice, 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).

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.

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.

No. If you’re on parental leave at the time when practising certificates are due for annual renewal, you don’t need to renew your practising certificate. Please inform us if this is the case and we will temporarily remove your name from the Register of Costs Lawyers.

You can then make an Application for Reinstatement when you return to work. This will incur a £30 administration charge, however you will receive a fee dispensation for the time you were on parental leave.

You can, of course, renew your practising certificate and remain on the Register of Costs Lawyers if you would prefer to do so. You will need to ensure you meet your CPD requirements for the year.

If you have taken parental leave of one month or more, you are entitled to a reduction in the fee you need to pay when you apply for reinstatement. Normally, a Costs Lawyer who is returning to work needs to pay a pro rated practising certificate fee, to reflect the fact that their practising certificate is required for only part of the year. Costs Lawyers who have taken parental leave during the previous practising year will receive an additional discount, reflecting the number of months they spent on parental leave. The maximum dispensation is 100% of the fee due on reinstatement.

For example:

  • You take parental leave from 12 April 2030 to 28 February 2031
  • The practising certificate fee is £280 in 2030 and £300 in 2031
  • You will pay the £280 fee for 2030. At the end of 2030, your authorisation will lapse
  • You will apply for reinstatement to the Register of Costs Lawyers from 1 March 2031
  • You will pay for 10 months of the 2031 practising year, being 10/12ths of £300, or £250
  • You will receive a fee dispensation (i.e. a discount off the £250 due for 2031) to reflect the fact that you did not work for 8 months of the 2030 practising year, being 8/12ths of £280, or £187
  • You will pay a £30 administration charge upon application for reinstatement
  • In total, this means you will pay no practising certificate fees for the period of your parental leave (10 full months)

Please email us, with details of your period of parental leave and we will calculate the fee due with your Application for Reinstatement and advise you.

You will then need to provide evidence of your parental leave when you submit your application. This could be a letter from your employer, your accountant, a government body or a medical professional depending on your circumstances.

We can’t give fee dispensations prior to you taking parental leave. However, if you have taken parental leave during a practising year (i.e. your leave falls exclusively within a single calendar year as opposed to spanning across two practising years), please contact us prior to the next annual practising certificate renewal so we can discuss a dispensation from the following year’s practising certificate fee.