Costs lawyers are seeing the benefits of the Jackson reforms as solicitors turn to them in increasing numbers to cope with the intricacies of budgeting, a poll has shown.
Some 53% of members of the Association of Costs Lawyers (ACL) said they have seen a “significant” growth in demand for budgeting advice in the past year, with a further 28% saying it had increased “slightly”. This was on the back of similar rises in previous years.
Three-quarters expected even more instructions over the next 12 months.
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.
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%.
Asked how budgeting was working, 60% said it had brought costs lawyers’ skills to the fore. Some 52% replied that it depended which judge they were before – reflecting concerns expressed by the ACL and others that judicial inconsistency is undermining the regime – while a similar number (53%) agreed that ‘solicitors think they can do it – and they’re wrong’.
The proportion who found that solicitors remain in denial or unaware of the demands fell slightly, from 43% last year to 36% this.
Costs lawyers remained concerned about the impact of the Jackson reforms, however, with 40% saying they have discouraged solicitors from taking on less straightforward cases, and 31% believing that they have tilted the playing field in favour of defendants.
ACL chairman Sue Nash said: “The Jackson reforms have ushered in a new era for costs lawyers – one 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.”