In the UK the government is clamping down on all sorts of things and the way legal fees are funded is no different. We have already had changes in Councils budgets which have started to have a real impact on the funding of various services, libraries being one which stands out for being in the news a lot recently, also large numbers of redundancies across the country have seen many people out of work (regardless if you agree with them or not).
This obviously has an impact on the wider community, if one person loses their job, they have less money in their pocket to spend, if they stop buying their newspaper and milk from the local shop, they then lose revenues and so it goes on. Another side effect is people are trying to make money through other avenues, so one industry which seems to be doing quite well, either despite or because of the recession is the legal claims industry, otherwise known as no win no fee solicitors. You know the ones, many of them have TV adverts all morning between the daytime TV programmes, undoubtedly trying to catch all those people who have had accidents, trips and falls who aren’t working, or perhaps also those who are in work but had an accident there and are planning to get the compensation from their employer.
Regardless of their situation the UK legal system has for many years allowed a solicitor to act for a client much the same way that they would when billing privately or under the legal aid system, i.e. the winner of the case can claim their legal costs from the other party. No win no fee solicitors have done the same thing historically, this is how they can guarantee that their own client will not incur any costs, as they will only take the case on if they are confident of winning anyway and therefore the other party will always have to pay the legal costs.
A change in the way these cases are funded is on the horizon though, a friend who is an oxford based solicitor was telling me that these type of cases are soon to be funded in a very different way, the solicitor will receive a flat fee for the case as opposed to charging for their time. This could mean clients get less legal time spent on the case, or it could mean the solicitor has to work harder for the same money.
The reasoning behind this is to try to cut out the middle man companies (some of whom are the big names you probably know) who are actually middle men, they will refer to themselves as legal advisers as opposed to solicitors, they attract the enquiries, then sell them on to people who actually do the work.
For more about this and to see how the rules are eventually put in place, see the law society’s news pages.