The Social Cost of Litigation, published by Conservative thinktank the Centre for Policy Studies, has rude things to say about ‘greedy lawyers’. As we report, social commentator Frank Furedi and co-author Jennie Bristow find that lawyers are the chief beneficiaries of ‘the non-quantifiable but nevertheless destructive consequences of litigation culture’. The authors feel that innovation and professionalism in education and healthcare are being stifled by the fear of litigation.
So far, so predictable. Many of our readers will enjoy picking large holes in the report; not least, the apparent assumption that legal advice was a waste of time in cases that settle. Heavy use of anecdotes from health and education-related claims that are supposed to be ‘symptomatic’ also give a thin evidential feel to Furedi and Bristow’s work.
But it would be a mistake to think that this is ‘job done’. Arguments in this report have real political traction. They tap into the fears of policymakers that potential private providers of state services might be deterred by the liabilities they would have to accept.
Equally, one can imagine the assertion that litigation avoidance is now equated with ‘best practice’ in health could make some headway in the official mind. Frustrating as it may seem for anyone seeking to defend the role of lawyers in these areas, it is necessary to take time out to keep on answering such charges.