The Bar Council, Law Society and Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx) have already begun talks on forming a working party that will take forward Lord Justice Jackson’s call for a contingent legal aid fund (CLAF), it has emerged.
Earlier this week, the judge said the legal profession should create the CLAF – a not-for-profit third-party litigation funder – to back both regular litigation and “deserving” cases which would otherwise not be attractive because of the level of damages sought.
The Bar Council had previously shown enthusiasm for the idea, setting up a CLAF group in 2009 to investigate the possibility. However, in his speech, Jackson LJ noted that the project went into abeyance after 2011. “Understandably the profession wanted to see what the scene would be after [my] reforms had been implemented and after any legal aid cutbacks had taken effect.”
Bar Council chairman Chantal-Aimée Doerries QC said it had already opened discussions with CILEx and the Law Society to set up joint working party to examine the establishment of a CLAF.
She said: “The Bar Council has supported the development of a CLAF for many years. The civil justice system is currently facing multiple challenges with the result that access to justice for many has become restricted. Lord Justice Jackson’s suggestion that the concept of a CLAF should be re-visited is therefore timely.
“As experience from overseas has shown, a contingent legal aid fund may provide an additional source of funding the civil justice system and thereby help to address some of the problems many people face about access to justice today. Clearly the viability of a CLAF, and its scope, need to be considered very carefully in the current context including the civil courts structure review which is being led by Lord Justice Briggs.”
CILEx president David Edwards said: “The funding of litigation continues to pose problems for many individuals who without the means to pursue cases are being denied access to justice. Lord Justice Jackson has indicated that now is the time for the legal profession to come together, and collaboratively consider the potential to establish a contingent legal aid fund. CILEx welcomes the opportunity to work together to explore the issues in more detail.”
For the Law Society, president Jonathan Smithers added: “Lord Justice Jackson has put forward some interesting proposals for legal aid funding, which we will consider carefully. The market has changed since this idea was last proposed, and it makes sense to see whether the obstacles which prevented it from proceeding in the past can now be overcome.”