Newsletter – June 2022

From the CEO

How can Costs Lawyers help to reduce the cost of legal services? Good question. I’m not talking about getting a discount off a brief fee or drafting pithy points of dispute. I’m asking a broader question, about the role that Costs Lawyers as a profession could play in stemming the spiralling cost of legal advice, to ensure that clients can access legal services when they need them and get value for money in return. Last year the CLSB launched a six-month project, supported by the Regulators’ Pioneer Fund, to explore this interesting and important question. A report of our findings has been published today.

The rising cost of legal services has been tackled many times in many ways, as Costs Lawyers know all too well. This has often involved structural reforms that impact on Costs Lawyers’ work directly, like the introduction of budgeting and QOCS, or the continued expansion of fixed costs in civil cases. But these reforms have never managed to provide the whole answer to the problem that legal services are unaffordable for the vast majority of the population. Between 2005 and 2018, 56% of all legal aid providers left the market, and the proportion of not-for-profit providers fell by 64%. That was before Covid-19.

Against this backdrop, we wanted to explore how making changes to regulation and legislation might assist the development of innovative services by Costs Lawyers, for the benefit of clients and the public. We therefore commissioned a research project to look at the types of services that Costs Lawyers are providing, or might provide in future, to help control legal costs. We searched far and wide for answers, talking to regulated and unregulated providers of costs advice, their clients and employers, and people in other jurisdictions who have done things differently.

The findings are of interest to anyone who has a stake in the Costs Lawyer profession or who is curious about what the profession could evolve into with the right support. I would encourage you to have a look at the summary findings in the report, but as a taster:

  • The Costs Lawyer profession has the potential to have a much bigger impact than it does today. Awareness of Costs Lawyers’ expertise is low, which dampens the demand for the profession to provide innovative services to a wide range of clients.
  • Regulating the organisations in which Costs Lawyers work – even through some sort of voluntary scheme – has the potential to unlock numerous benefits including boosting Costs Lawyers’ independence from the solicitors’ profession and driving innovation and competition.
  • The project highlighted a need for all legal services regulators to focus on how legal costs can be better controlled through regulatory and supervisory levers.

The next step for the CLSB is to act on these findings and think about the changes we can make, or ask others to make, in order to harness the full potential of the Costs Lawyer profession.

Kate Wellington


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