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 http://www.accesstojusticefoundation.org.uk/
– 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.
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