In March 2015, Court fees rose – in some cases by up to 600%. Concerns were raised that rather than creating profitable judicial reform to combat the deficit, this decision along with cuts to legal aid would simply serve to price the public and small businesses out of the Court system thus leaving many who are due justice lacking the means to seize it. As ever, for a modern age there is a contemporary solution: “crowd-funding”.
The concept behind crowd funding in law is a simple one; it can be seen as mirroring the business model of court claim funders like ‘Harbour Litigation Funding’ – where investors put up money to back large claims, hoping for a share of the proceeds when the claim is successful (once a crime in itself, read: champerty). The difference here then, could be seen as one of morality – crowd-funded litigation as it is emerging cannot be seen as a “business model” in the same way, as it relies upon donors and not investors.
The way it works is that anyone can submit a case and set a threshold for donations to reach. In order to do so, the Claimant must already be represented by a Solicitor. The threshold must then be met before the donations will be released to meet the legal costs of the case. Such systems could have great impact on the power of communities, allowing them to coalesce in a regulated manner and pool resources to fight that planning permission application that might swallow stretches of greenbelt or meaningfully petition the closure of a local facility.
‘CrowdJustice’, a rising example of this kind of pseudo-legal aid system, also selects “big issue” public interest cases, utilising its web-space to publicise them and generate a larger donor-base, no doubt relying on the well-documented viral nature of the internet to spread the word.
An exciting new idea then, as yet in its infancy – though, as always, someone has got to make money. The already-established “industry standard” cut for these companies to take is around 5%. This moral flux, combined with the fact that such sites offer no legal advice and no help in finding a lawyer to begin with, may lead to a fair few Claimants still feeling like there is metaphorically “no room at the Inn”.
To discuss these issues further or to seek legal representation contact Jasper Vincent Solicitors on 023 8063 3225 or 01489 885 788 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.