In Reforming Legal Aid — The Next Steps Anthony Speaight QC carries forward the call for radical reform made in Politeia’s March 2022 publication, Reforming Legal Aid. That identified structural change in the system over the late 20th century during which the quality of legal aid declined at the same time as the cost had tripled.
Speaight argues that along with structural change went a change in culture. He proposes four specific reforms to civil legal aid which could be made without any new money from the Treasury.
- Replacing bureaucrats by professionals either by inviting the Law Society, to resume the role which it performed up to 1988 in the administration of legal aid or by inviting a range of organisers to enter the field and permit a degree of variation in how aid was provided.
- Setting up one or more Contingency Legal Aid Funds (CLAF), which would pay the fees of lawyers and expert witnesses to take on a case in return for the client agreeing to pay a predetermined percentage of the recovery, if the claim succeeds, back to the fund. Once up and running it would be self-financing. But seed corn money is needed, which the Treasury has never wanted to provide.
- Abolishing the Legal Services Board and reallocating its funding as a contribution to CLAF seed corn funding, showing the Government support which could encourage private investors. This would also be beneficial in itself as it would simplify a multi-tiered regulatory system of regulators regulating regulators.
- New legislation for ‘Before the Event Insurance’ to allow for a modest extension of the scope of insurance where it is already compulsory, e.g. for motorists, occupiers and employers. Such action could usefully draw attention to the value of “before the event insurance”.
1. Reforming Legal Aid — The Next Steps by Anthony Speaight QC will be published by Politeia,,42 Berkeley Square, London, W1J 5AW.
2. Anthony Speaight QC is a former Chairman of the Bar Council’s Access to the Bar Committee (2004-6), and former Chairman of the Editorial Board of Counsel, the journal of the Bar of England and Wales (1991-4). He was a member of the Bar Council working party on a Contingency Legal Aid Fund. He is also a former Chair of Research of the Society of Conservative Lawyers (2016-2020).
3. Established in 1995, Politeia is an independent, non-partisan think-tank providing a forum to discuss economic, constitutional and social policy with a particular focus on the role of the state in people’s lives.