Latest figures show an increase in the number of Litigants in Person

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The Ministry of Justice have release figures for the number of privately funded (in other words, non-Legal Aid) cases commenced between April and June 2017. The number of cases have increased by 3% to 13,029 and they show an increase from 36% to 38% of the number of cases where neither side was represented by a solicitor or barrister. Many more cases will have gone to court with only one side having legal representation.

Many of these people have never had proper legal advice and are confused by the highly complex and rule-bound court proceedings and / or have little idea of what the law actually is in the area relevant to their legal dispute.

Because these litigants don’t know what they are doing they are taking many hopeless cases to court and / or pursuing hopeless arguments. Many of the cases would have been settled at an early stage if they had taken advantage of the various forms of mediation that are available. Most solicitors encourage potential litigants to try mediation before issuing court proceedings. Those who don’t obtain legal advice usually go straight to court without trying mediation first.

The result is that judges are left trying to explain to the distressed and anxious litigants that they are not going to get what they want. Often, they will be told that they have made the wrong application or that although they have made the right application, they have not abided by the rules of the court and the case will have to be adjourned so things can be put right.

My view is that Legal Aid should be reintroduced for people on below average incomes and, for litigants of average incomes and above, that solicitors should offer fixed fee advice sessions to guide them through the law and court procedures relevant to their applications.

We have been offering fixed fee services since January 2009 and continue to do so.

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