Solicitors are using costs lawyers in ever greater numbers according to the Association of Costs Lawyers (ACL).
After conducting a survey of costs lawyers, the ACL found that more than half (53%) of respondents have seen a significant increase in demand for costs budgeting advice in the past year. Another 28% said that it had increased slightly. Three-quarters of costs lawyers said that they expect even more instructions over the next 12 months.
The proportion who found that solicitors remain in denial or unaware of the demands of costs budgeting fell slightly, from 43% last year to 36% .
As a result, 55% of Costs Lawyers said they had grown their practices, taking on more staff, increasing sales and marketing activity, undertaking more advocacy, and diversifying – with ADR, WIP valuations and legal project management the key areas they are looking at. Nearly half (45%) expect the number of Costs Lawyers to have increased in three years‟ time, while a quarter are looking to recruit a trainee in the next 12 months.
The increase in demand for budgeting, hand in hand with more fixed fees in fast-track personal injury work, mean that the nature of Costs Lawyers‟ practices is changing. Multi-track work made up 60% of the average firm‟s caseload (up from 52% last year), while fast-track PI fell from 22% to 13%.
ACL chairman Sue Nash said that the survey confirmed that the Jackson reforms had ushered in a new era for costs lawyers, where they play a critical role in managing costs from the start of a case to the end.
“It is satisfying to see how many are looking to spread their wings into other areas where their skills and experience – which cover far more than their core costs drafting role – can offer real value to solicitors, their clients and others,” she said.
“The survey results also showed that the costs management regime is far from perfect. The ACL‟s budgeting working party recently submitted a report to the Civil Procedure Rule Committee outlining where we believe that improvements can be made and we will continue our efforts to make the system work.”