With the impact of the latest cuts to legal aid yet to bite, the number of practising solicitors in the UK in 2014 was revised down by 3,189 between January and February 2014, according to the latest figures from the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).
The SRA’s figures on regulated solicitor population show a total of 127,423 practising solicitors in February 2014, compared to 130,612 in January, the month before.
The SRA said the decline in numbers was largely due to solicitors failing to renew their practising certificates, adding: ‘Each year we carry out a practising certificate bulk termination exercise where we terminate those practising certificates which have not been renewed. The results of this exercise can be seen by the falls in the numbers of solicitors holding practising certificates…in December 2009, January 2011, August 2012, March 2013, February 2014.’
This time last year, the SRA’s figures showed there was a 2,977 drop in solicitors holding practising certificates.
Other years that have seen a major drop during one of these ‘bulk terminations’ include August 2012, when numbers dropped to 124,968 from 128,710 the month before.
Of the total solicitors on the roll in England and Wales in February, however, the number was up from 163,898 to 164,365. This includes 374 registered European lawyers and 1,994 registered foreign lawyers – down from 405 and 2,140 respectively in January.
In terms of the number of law firms, the SRA’s figures show that 10,554 firms were in operation as of February 2014, down from 10,827 in February 2013.
However, the statistics paint a picture of a market in a state of flux, with many new office openings offsetting the full extent of the closures. Taking September 2013, the worst month for office closures in 2013, 49 new firms opened while 234 firms closed.
The results come after the SRA confirmed in January that 136 firms have been forced to close because they were unable to secure professional indemnity insurance (PII) since 1 October. Of the closed firms, 31 were in London, six in Manchester, four in Birmingham, five in Leeds, three in Liverpool and two in Newcastle.