Private sector soluton to legal aid funding crisis

Outline proposal for voluntary system to replace legal aid
– The indemnity principle needs to be abolished, so that lawyers can act for clients who are unable to agree to pay their fees, and the lawyers can recover their costs to be assessed on a party – party basis from the other party if successful.
– The Access to Justice Foundation (AJF) already exists and it will be able to take advantage of the new freedom to charge fees if successful
– Lawyers who are willing to work on a ‘no win no fee basis’ would be entitled to recover fees from the other party if successful.
– Those not willing to take that risk would have their costs covered by AJF, but 20% of any costs recovered would be paid to AJF. This fund would be used to cover the costs of those who are unsuccessful. Because the costs would be assessed at private client rates, the lawyers would receive at least as much as they have done previously under legal aid.
– AJF would get contingency insurance to cover the risk of excessive losses.
– AJF would invite firms and barristers willing to work under the scheme to sponsor it and they would receive advertising in return.
– AJF would delegate case approval to its insurers, who would check the merits and financial eligibility, but with much less strict eligibility criteria than under the existing legal aid system, so that it would truly provide access to justice for all.
– those clients able to pay a contribution would be required to do so, in the form of premiums to be collected by the insurers acting for AJF. Lawyers would be expected to collect contributions from clients in appropriate cases and pay them to AJF as a condition of funding.
– AJF would be entitled to a charge over any money or property recovered or preserved in the proceedings.


About michaeljameshall

I live in Orpington and am a retired solicitor. I am also a Liberal Democrat campaigner, interested in democracy, human rights, legal affairs and law reform. I am a member of the Liberal Democrat Lawyers' Association.
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2 Responses to Private sector soluton to legal aid funding crisis

  1. Pingback: Grayling refuses to delay legal aid cuts | truelabour

    • The Labour Party needs to make its position clear on legal aid. What would it do? Would it support the Access to Justice Foundation to enable it to get a private sector solution such as I have suggested up and running, even if only as a stop-gap until increased government funding is available? Or would it raise taxes to provide enough funding for the Legal Aid Agency to stop and reverse any cuts in legal aid?
      Does it accept that some reform of legal aid is necessary, to make it more widely available and more commercially viable, with less government funding available, to unlock the family disputes such as inheritance cases that are stalled and unresolved due to funding difficulties?
      The views of the Libdem Lawyers’ Association have been dismissed by the government as special pleading by a self-interested pressure group, and although Clegg is moving towards giving some support, the Libdems in Cabinet have so far lost the argument as they are greatly outnumbered by the Tories; from 2015 there will be a new government, which may be another coalition put together differently from the existing one and Labour cannot continue to act as the venus de milo on this issue.

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