Newsletter – March 2022
From the CEO
In mid-2021, there were 154,184 solicitors in England and Wales. That makes the solicitor profession nearly ten times larger than the next biggest cohort of legal practitioners, namely barristers, of which there were 16,912. Over the same period, there were: 6,914 chartered legal executives (or other CILEx regulated professionals); 3,055 patent and trademark attorneys; 1,457 licensed conveyancers; and 731 notaries. How do Costs Lawyers compare?
You might not be surprised to hear that Costs Lawyers make up the smallest part of the profession, with 681 regulated professionals during the same period. But while the number of solicitors dwarfs the number of Costs Lawyers (and other legal practitioners), the smaller parts of the legal profession are not that dissimilar in size.
So should we be concerned about being the smallest cohort in the legal profession? In my view, we should only be concerned if Costs Lawyer numbers are falling for reasons that suggest a sustained and irreversible shrinking of the profession over time. This would make regulation (by the CLSB) and professional representation (by the Association of Costs Lawyers) financially unviable. At the moment, that is not happening.
By November 2021, there were 705 Costs Lawyers on the Register. 675 of you renewed your practising certificate for 2022. This is about the same number as the previous year, when there were 674 renewals. Of the 31 practitioners who didn’t renew their practising certificate for 2022, four had retired, three left the profession, six took parental leave, and eleven cited other reasons (such as unemployment, ill-health, caring responsibilities and further education). Eight Costs Lawyers didn’t tell us why they chose not to renew their practising certificate. We have now developed an “exit survey” to capture the experiences of all leavers from the profession.
As you can see, some of these individuals may return to the profession in the future (such as those who are on leave or looking for work). The majority of practitioners who are unlikely to return fall into the “natural attrition” category, having left the profession for personal reasons or after a long and fruitful career.
The main way we counteract this natural attrition is through new qualifiers entering the profession. Due to the impact of covid-19 on students’ exam timings, we had just 13 new qualifiers entering the profession in 2021; this is less than in any previous year since students began graduating from the course. However, this means there will be more new qualifiers in 2022, and we are expecting the number of Costs Lawyers at mid-year to be stable. This is good news.
Emerging findings from our flagship project entitled How can Costs Lawyers reduce the cost of legal services? suggest there are important social benefits to be gained by expanding the Costs Lawyer profession, thus making costs skills and advice available to more people in more ways. So how can we achieve this and grow our numbers over time? By enticing more talent into the profession at qualification.
ACL Training is currently developing a new Costs Lawyer Qualification that aims to do just that. They are seeking your views on how the new qualification should look and what it should cover. Your input will be vital to the success of this work. There are more details in the “regulatory news” section below.