Lawyers champion ‘recyclable’ fund to finance civil cases where legal aid can’t

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By Katie King on

If you win your case, some of your damages go back into the fund


Lawyers have clubbed together to consider a brand new fund to help finance civil law cases not covered by legal aid.

In a (very) brief nutshell, the claimant will be able to derive money from what’s termed a contingent legal aid fund (CLAF) to finance their case. If they’re successful in their claim, a slice of the damages they’re awarded will be put back into the fund, to help out the next claimant.

As representatives from the Bar Council have explained:

[O]nce up and running, a CLAF would fund litigation for those who don’t have the resources to achieve it and wouldn’t qualify for legal aid. The intention of a CLAF is to facilitate access to justice.

Though newbie president of the Law Society Robert Bourns is hopeful this could be a “valuable method to fund litigation,” the idea is still very much in its early stages.

So far, the Bar Council, the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx) and the Law Society — working together — have set up a joint working group to take a look and have a think about a “recyclable” fund.

Though this is a new initiative, it’s hardly a new idea. As chairman of the bar Chantal-Aimee Doerries QC explains:

The Bar Council has examined this as a possible alternative source of funding civil justice over many years. Our first report was published as long ago as 1998.

The civil justice landscape, she continued, “has changed considerably” since then:

It is therefore timely to re-examine the feasibility of an independent, not-for-profit CLAF established by the legal profession, in the public interest, to promote access to justice.

The working group — chaired by 4 New Square’s Justin Fenwick QC — has agreed to produce an initial report about the possible CLAF by the end of September, and then a final report before the end of December.