Lawyers’ costs are just as big an obstacle to people conducting litigation as court fees, justice minister Lord Faulks has said.
Speaking at a fringe event of the Conservative party conference, Faulks (pictured) accepted there is ‘anxiety’ from some in the business community and elsewhere about the level of fees charged for commencing claims in court.
But the QC said fees charged by lawyers remain the ‘elephant in the room’ and hinted that the government is still keen to do more to reform ‘enormous’ legal costs.
‘I don’t think we have got a grip on the overall amount that lawyers charge,’ he said.
‘The Germans, for example, have very much more in the way of fixed costs. Once you decide to go [down] the court routes you know what is coming at the end of the road.’
He added: ‘[Court fees are] not too much compared with the fees you come up with for solicitors.’
The session itself concentrated on the importance, take-up and consistency of mediation as a form of alternative dispute resolution.
Speaking at the event, former City solicitor and recently elected Conservative MP Alberto Costa said some of his ex-colleagues are still not doing enough to encourage and promote ADR.
‘Looking back over the last 15 years we are not where ADR was promised to be. Most business people don’t know what ADR stands for.
‘The majority of litigators, particularly in the City, are still not qualified [in ADR]. People are still wedded to the court system.’
Costa said he would like to see ADR clauses as standard in contracts drawn up by lawyers for their clients and said ‘without exception’ his own former clients had approved of such clauses being inserted when the potential benefits of ADR were explained.
Costa, a member of the House of Commons justice select committee, also hinted that the committee is preparing to consult on the Legal Services Act ahead of a review by justice secretary Michael Gove, with a view to getting more smaller businesses to access legal help.