Barristers struggling with costs budgeting, survey finds


Budgeting: barristers finding it tough

Large numbers of barristers are struggling with costs budgeting, with some submitting budgets without even seeing the papers, Bar Council research has shown.

It also found that barristers are now much more wary of taking work under conditional fee agreements (CFAs), with success fee levels falling.

The findings form part of the Bar Council report on the impact of the first year of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO), the first results of which were published in July.

They showed that more than half of barristers conducting civil litigation have seen their income fall since implementation of the Jackson reforms.

The extra detail published this week said that 62% of the 384 civil litigation barristers surveyed had been required to provide a costs budget. Of these, half reported experiencing issues with providing their professional client with the required information, including having insufficient information to estimate costs accurately before the start of a case.

The report said: “Some respondents even reported submitting budgets to solicitors without having seen the papers.”

A third of respondents felt their work had been adversely affected by court-approved budget restrictions, including no longer being instructed for work due to the budget failing to provide for their costs, or being required to work for free due to court reductions.

The report said the end of recoverability had required barristers to “reconsider their terms of work for CFAs”.

Nearly 30% said they were no longer charging success fees, while a further 19% said they also did not charge success fees any more but had adjusted their base fees “to ensure financial viability”.

That left 14% charging success fees less frequently, 13% charging them at a lower percentage, and nearly 8% who had not changed from their pre-Jackson practices.

Nearly half of civil litigators reported that their volume of CFA work had fallen in the year, with a series of qualitative interviews undertaken for the report indicating that barristers were much more reluctant to work under CFAs because of their economic viability post-LASPO.

Just 13 respondents reported working under a damages-based agreement, while only 21% said they would consider it. The report identified two key reasons for the lack of enthusiasm: “poor drafting of the DBA regulations creating uncertainty in the market, and professional distaste for accepting work on the basis of taking a share of the lay client’s damages”.

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