Jonathan Bingham discusses the growing legal costs sector
Jonathan, can you tell us a bit about your own career to date?
I began in 2001 as a paralegal in insurance litigation of what was then Beachcroft Wansbroughs. Since then I have progressed with the same firm from qualifying as a solicitor in 2006 to a partner in 2015. I have held a variety of roles including defendant work, subrogated recoveries, property damage, motor claims and costs. I currently specialise in costs and enjoy working in a challenging area of law that is constantly changing.
What’s the best thing about your job?
The most rewarding aspect is seeing lawyers develop into new roles and progress in their careers. I remember what it was like starting out as a paralegal and I thrive on seeing how my team members develop and are promoted into new roles.
Legal costs is a growing sector so what’s driving that trend?
There has been a raft of changes in civil litigation following the Jackson Reforms. This has brought in new kinds of costs disputes on fixed costs, proportionality and costs budgeting. For example, in the last year alone we have had two successes in the Court of Appeal. Clients are realising more and more the importance of using costs experts for the work.
What skills does a legal costs lawyer actually need?
Being practical and commercially minded is critical. It's no good raising lots of lengthy technical arguments if ultimately this does not save the client any money. Negotiation skills are required to reach good settlements with the other side. It is numbers orientated so someone who enjoys being analytical and dealing with calculations. We've looked to recruit non-lawyers who have backgrounds in business or maths as these are transferrable skills.
What are the best routes in to the sector?
Starting as a paralegal with our firm! It's good to begin by applying for a junior role somewhere that will support your training and career progression. Experience is not necessarily required but it's important to understand the skill set that employers are looking for.
What opportunities are there for anyone thinking about pursuing a legal costs career?
There are opportunities to progress as a technical expert in the field and/or as a manager running your own team. We support our lawyers in both areas and also professional qualifications either as a costs lawyer or qualifying as a solicitor through the legal executive route. There are significant opportunities for associate and partner level in the future.
What does the future hold for this area of law?
The next stage of Jackson Reforms will bring in new areas for uncertainty and disputes. The future looks very bright as costs experts will continue to be in high demand.
Do you have any tips for young lawyers who may be considering it as a potential specialism?
Do some initial research into the area and find out what the role entails. If you know someone already in the industry then it is worth speaking with them. Make sure that your CV and experience demonstrates some practical skills.