Legal help and representation

In a civil action the claimant has a choice of numerous schemes one of them being the Community Legal Service, this scheme was set up in the access to justice act 1999. This provides the following facilities involving civil law: General information about the law and legal system and the availability of legal services, legal advice, help in preventing or settling or otherwise resolving disputes about legal rights or duties, help in enforcing decisions by which such disputes are resolved and also help in relation to legal proceedings not relating to disputes.

This act states that the scheme includes advice, assistance and representation of lawyers as well as services of non lawyers. However the money to pay for this service is met by the Community Legal Service Fund. Another way to tackle a legal problem is conditional fees, conditional fees were first allowed by section 58 of the courts and Legal Services Act 1990 in personal injury, insolvency and human rights cases. By 1998 the use of conditional fees was extended to all civil cases except family cases.

Under the Access to Justice Act 1999 conditional fees form an important role of the Government strategy for funding civil cases. Conditional fees provide a new way for people to bring there cases forward. The lawyer and client agree on the fee which would normally be charged for such a case. The agreement states what the lawyers 'success fee' will be. This can be an 'uplift' of up to 100% of the agreed normal fee. If the lawyer does not win the case the client pays nothing.

However if the lawyer is successful then the client pays the normal fee plus the success fee. Most solicitors will also include a 'cap' on the success fee, which means that it cannot be more than 25% of the damages which are awarded to the successful claimant. As the success fee is an extra fee, it used not to be possible for the successful party to claim from the other side as part of the normal cost of the case. However, the Access to Justice Act 1999 now allows courts to order that the losing party pays the amount of the success fee to the winning party.

There are other places a claimant can go for legal help and these are places that offer legal assistance either by looking for someone to represent you privately or also looking for people who do Pro Bono Work. However private fees can cost from as little as i?? 80 to as much as i?? 300 per hour which can be very expensive if you are of low income. Although you are basically paying for a better solicitor and there is more choice available. Pro bono work is offered as voluntary work from barristers for people who are not eligible for public funding.

Normally carried out by newly qualified barrister who wants to gain extra experience in different areas of law. Alternatively claimants can get assistance from non lawyers such as Advice agencies there are a number of different advice schemes the main two being Law centres and Citizen's Advice Bureaux's. You can apply for contracts to do governments-funded work. However, there are other agencies which offer specialist advice on certain topic, for example the RAC and the AA offer members some help in traffic matters, while Trade Unions will help members with legal problems, particularly in work-related matters.

There are also charities, such as shelter which offers advice to people with housing problems. About 300 not-for-profit agencies have contracts to do Community Legal Service Work. The legal profession offers assistance with schemes run by solicitors which provide cheap or free advice. A further way of funding a court case is by legal insurance. Most motor insurance policies offer cover (for a supplementary small amount) for help with legal fees in cases arising from road accidents, and there are policies purely fir insurance against legal cost.

'CABx' were first set up in 1938 and today there are roughly 1,000 throughout the country, with a bureau existing in most towns. They give general advice for 'free' to anyone on a variety of issues mostly connected to social welfare problems and debt, but they also advice on some legal matters. They can provide information on which local solicitors do legal aid work or give cheap or free initial interviews. Many bureaux have agreements where once a week/fortnight a solicitor will attend to give more qualified advice on legal matters.

The Legal Service Commission has awarded contracts for same CABx to provide government-funded advice. Law centres offer a free of charge non-means tested legal service to people in their area. The first centre which was opened in North Kensington in 1970. The stated aims as providing a first class solicitors service to the people, a service which is easily accessible , not intimidating, to which they can turn for guidance as they would to their family doctor, or as someone who can afford it would turn to his family solicitor'.

Their aim is to provide free legal advice in areas where there are a few solicitors. B) All the various ways listed above to obtain legal help are effective in certain areas however some are not as effective from a first glance. For instance although law centres are free and have a lot of legal service to offer they have a major problem with funding. Law centres although provided funding by Home Office, and also financial support from local business. Law centres are highly reliant on Local Authority funding which is very erratic.

As result to such problems some law centres have been forced to be closed. Nevertheless law centres have played a pioneering role in identifying previously unrecognised areas of need and orientated to the needs of the particular community they serve. There are a wide range of areas worked in by the law centres which offer good access to those needing help these include: Housing, planning and environment, welfare, problems connected with employment, discrimination, immigration, and children's rights.

They have also set up extra schemes with local county court to prevent evictions. I believe that this scheme is moderately effective and working at its best. Conditional fees are claimed to be very effective; since conditional fees have been allowed over 50,000 cases for personal injury claims. This shows that the CFAs have allowed a number of people to get access to justice and bring a case which they would probably not have been able to do so otherwise. However, there are still problems.

Research in 1998 by Sheffield University found that: the poorest clients were not able to avoid insurance premiums or disbursements, those with risky cases where likely to have to shop around for a solicitor prepared to take on there case, the amount of work needed to be done on some types of personal injury case, especially from an accident at work, meant that it was difficult to estimate the cost, and such cases had cost solicitors more than the 100% uplift fee. A survey of solicitors in 2001, by accountancy firm BDO Stoy Haywood, suggest that solicitors where becoming more choosy about accepting CFA cases.

They usually only accepted cases that had a strong chance of wining and a clear opportunity for profit. Where there is less certain outcome solicitors preferred such cases to be covered by an insurance policy which would pay both sides cost. In my opinion I think that the conditional fee scheme is beneficial to different individuals depending on your case; however it is more than likely shown by statistics that most cases taken on by CFAs are personal Injury cases and normally cases which have great possibility of winning.

The least effective state funding in my view has to be the Community Legal Service, this is because the funding is run by the Legal service Commission who get money paid to the commission by the Lord Chancellor BUT the Lord Chancellor is reasonable for determining how much is appropriate each year through and also has to work within the governments total budget. This system slightly different from the old legal aid system which provided funding to any case qualified has a limit or cap amount of money available and it is very possible that some people will be refused funding because the money can run out.

The Lord Chancellor set the budget for year 2001-2002 to be 732 million but indicated that he intended to decrease the budget in following years. Within the money budget for the CLSf there are two sub budgets-civil and family. The money will be allocated to regional offices of the commission according to the amount identified necessary for that area. However, this could result in one area not having enough to fund all the cases it needs to, while in another area there is enough funding.

There are also certain matters that do NOT meet the criteria for funding these being: allegations of negligently caused injury, death or damage to property, apart from allegations of clinical negligence, conveyancing, boundary disputes, the making of wills, matter of trust law, defamation or malicious falsehood, matters of company or partnership law and matters arising out of the carrying on of a business.