The number of PC-holders has been rising inexorably for years, but are we about to hit ‘peak solicitor’?
Consider the evidence. Brexit jeopardises the pre-eminence of the City, where a hefty slice of that growth has been centred. Germany, France and others are circling our ‘jurisdiction of choice’.
Out in the country, civil legal aid cuts have created yawning advice deserts where help is simply no longer available or just doesn’t pay. And Briggs LJ’s final report envisages ‘minimal assistance’ from lawyers in his online court. Indeed, Briggs himself alludes to a ‘notorious’ surplus of qualified solicitors, suggesting that case officers could be recruited from their ranks ‘at competitive rates of remuneration’ (ie cheaply).
Unsurprisingly the forces of supply and demand are showing up in pay rates. The salary gap with accountants appears to be narrowing fast, partly because there is never a shortage of beans to count.
And yet. While the profession may be at risk of contraction, there is no evidence of such a trend in the statistics. The number of PC-holders – up 15,000 in five years – hit another record in 2015, which is testament to the strength of the solicitor brand.
But can it get much better than this? Matching that rate of increase in the next five years will surely prove to be a tall order.