The Law Society and Bar Council have set up a joint working party to look at new ways of funding cases as an alternative to legal aid.
With the government poised to announce the details of public spending cuts, the two bodies said they had come together informally to consider the viability of a contingent legal aid fund (CLAF) to provide a new income stream to fund cases.
A CLAF is a self-funding scheme that would provide financial assistance to those deemed eligible for help in mounting civil legal claims.
The costs of a successful case are recovered in the ordinary way from the defendant, and the claimant pays a proportion of their damages back into the CLAF pool to fund future claims. One hurdle is finding the initial funds to build up the pool.
The idea was considered in the Law Society’s recent Access to Justice Review, and Lord Justice Jackson has recommended that the professions should examine the benefits of a CLAF.
The working party will assess whether it would be viable and its impact on access to justice.
Meanwhile, London legal aid firm Duncan Lewis has published a paper on policy recommendations for David Cameron’s coalition government. Improving legal rights in the UK proposes a levy by the Financial Services Authority on companies in the financial services sector, to contribute to the legal aid budget and compensate for the amount spent on very high cost criminal cases, many of which involve white collar fraud.