Justice commodified is better than no justice at all.
So one might infer from this week’s news, which tells two very different stories about civil dispute resolution.
In the rarefied climes of international business, litigation funding continues its irresistible ascent. Vannin’s flotation, valuing the eight-year-old business at a heady £1bn, adds fresh impetus to a booming sector for which the sky appears to be the limit (see p6). Its growing clout is personified by David Morley, one of the City’s best-known solicitors, who will chair Vannin as it sets about wooing investors.
I suspect he will not have to try too hard. The global legal finance market has the potential to ‘revolutionise the litigation landscape worldwide’, Allen & Overy’s former senior partner declares. And who is to say he is wrong. Look at market leader Burford, whose share price has risen 14-fold since listing in 2009; or Rosenblatt, the ambitious law firm which went public earlier this year looking for a slice of the action.
Litigation funding’s evangelists preach that it controls costs and promotes access to justice.
And so it does, after a fashion. Back on more humdrum terrain, however, there are no champagne corks popping in respect of access to justice – unless they are to be heard at the offices of the Association of British Insurers. The Civil Liability Bill seems set to go through more or less unscathed (p6).
This heralds a violent contraction of access for ordinary people engaged in rather more mundane disputes. Injured people are suffering the biggest assault on their rights in recent memory. And while whiplash claims garner the national media’s (limited) attention, the small claims limit for employer and public liability claims is to be quietly doubled.
We are, meanwhile, expected to swallow the risible fiction that insurers will pass on savings from whiplash to consumers rather than shareholders. Their trade magazine, Insurance Post, bluntly pointed out in no uncertain terms they will not have to do so. MPs will instead get some information on what happens here in about 2025.
So that’s all right then.