How the justice secretary could force through his controversial legal aid levy.
When Michael Gove recently suggested that the wealthiest law firms should do more to help the legal aid sector, lawyers were quick to jump on flaws in his logic.
Lawyers who took the City route did not do so at the expense of legal aid lawyers. Their training was not state funded, and they do not owe any particular duty to subsidise legal aid work over and above the duty of any taxpayer – as we all benefit from having a justice system.
But just because something isn’t logical, doesn’t mean it is not going to happen. And happen it will.
I’m told that Gove is determined to see this through, and he has one ultimate weapon that will force City firms to put their hands in their pockets to pay up for a legal aid levy. Either they fork out, or they could lose the right for purely foreign cases to be litigated through the English and Welsh courts. Ouch.
That could be a high-stakes game of brinkmanship, because the City law firms generate a huge amount of income for the UK economy through these big foreign cases. But provided the financial levy is pitched at a level that does not make too big a dent in their sizeable profits, the law firms are almost certain to be the first to blink.
They simply have too much to lose.
And Gove does seem quite determined. So if your firm is one that acts for, as the new lord chancellor phrased it recently, ‘the wealthy, international class who can, for example, choose [emphasis added] to settle cases in London with the gold standard of British justice,’ then you can expect a knock on the door fairly soon.
Rachel Rothwell is editor of Litigation Funding magazine