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Legal advice and funding
The main problem with funding is the cost. Not only is the legal process expensive but cost may be
unpredictable due to the fact that the length of a case may be unknown. As a result, access is
restricted to the legal profession for many of the population. For example:
An experienced solicitor in London may charge £400 per hour, and even a trainee solicitor in
the north could charge up to £100 per hour.
If access is limited then does this produce a just system?
There are two ways of funding legal services
1. Paying your own expenses
2. State funding
a. Funding expenses through income, savings or a bank loan
b. Legal expenses insurance. This comes in two forms; before the event (BTE) and after the
event (ATE). BTE is normally included in household insurance whereas ATE is more likely to be
a standalone policy (more expensive). There may be some exclusions or restrictions in the
policy, for example, a particular legal provider may be specified or there may be a maximum
amount of money available. Insurers also look for moral hazard. This means any previous
c. Conditional fees. These were widely introduced in the Courts and Legal Services Act 1990.
They are commonly known as no win no fee arrangements. There is no charge if the case is
lost, however, court costs must be paid, plus, if the case is won, a success fee is normally
included on top of the solicitors' standard hourly rate. Alternatively, a contingency fee can be
levied (raised), meaning the client pays a percentage of what is recovered. In practice, ATE is
often taken out to cover the fee.
a. The community legal service (for civil cases)
This provides funds to solicitors and the Citizen's Advice Bureaux to provide legal
advice and services to the public. There are 3 types of funding provided:
1) Legal Help. This provides initial advice and Help in preparing a case
2) Help at court. This is for representation in court and also to pay a mediator. Applicants
must meet financial criteria (means test). Any financial gain must first be used to pay the
legal costs. This is referred to as the statutory charge
3) There is specific Help for family cases such as general family Help or Help with mediation
b. Criminal defence service
This organises legal aid in criminal cases. This includes provision of a duty solicitor.
He/she advises the accused at the police station and attends one hearing at the Magistrates'
Court. There are no financial criteria.
The accused's own solicitor may be paid for by legal aid if the solicitor has a contract
with the Criminal Defence Service (CDS).
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The CDS can issue a representation order for the Magistrates' Court but financial and merits criteria
will be applied (for example, means tested on income and savings). There is also a test to see if the
case is `in the interests of justice' e.g. if a custodial sentence is likely or if the accused's understanding
is compromised (through age, illness or language difficulties).
c. The advocacy order
An advocacy order can also be given.…read more
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Free access to duty solicitors
Free advice from law centres, the Citizens' advice bureaux and sometimes solicitors.
Solicitors can also sometimes give advice for a fixed fee
Weaknesses of access and funding
New categories have been created in relation to legal rights, but these haven't been
followed by funding e.g. social welfare law
People often don't realise that their problem is a legal one that calls for a lawyer e.g.…read more