In my work as a litigation lawyer, or “resolver of disputes”, I often find myself having to explain to people that, if their private rights have been “breached”, then they are entirely at liberty to take action through the Courts to have the position rectified (by suing the other party) BUT they will have to pay their own lawyer (if they choose to employ one) to do the necessary work, plus the Court fees for issuing claims etc and they will then run the risk of having to pay the other party’s legal costs if they lose the claim.
Most people recognise that as right and proper, but some, hopefully a minority, are surprised, thinking that civil misconduct ought somehow “not to be allowed” and “somebody” ought not to let “them” get away with it.
We all understand that the criminal law is there to protect (all of us) from the misconduct of others. We pay taxes to support the police and the criminal justice system, so that reckless motorists, fraudsters, murderers and so on are found out and punished, (hopefully) discouraging others from doing the same.
If we want additional personal protection, we can buy insurance so that we are covered in the unlikely event of a lightning strike, flood, car theft, ill-health, travel problems etc. The tax bill for Legal Aid was reckoned to be too onerous and for most claims that is only an historical memory these days, so that, unless you have some applicable legal expenses insurance, if you want legal assistance, you have to deal with the fees.
Some people are perhaps misled by the plethora of “Omdudsmen”, often set up as adjuncts to trade or service organisations (lawyers have one as well), to whom we can turn for a hearing as to complaints, without there being any charge other than a nominal figure sometimes. Consumer programmes on the television can add to this sense of entitlement and create an unrealistic expectation that there will (or should) always be someone there to help out, gratis, come what may.
Even lawyers can sometimes make a rod for their own backs – some might point to “no win, no fee” arrangements as an example of that. These are arrangements, which many who turn to lawyers, perhaps encouraged by day time TV and similar media, again expect to be able to claim as a right. In fact, even those law firms who are set up to deal with claims on this basis, still have to carry out an assessment as to “prospects of success”. These are meant to exceed 50% in order to be approved, but a cynic could be forgiven for wondering if only those claims which are rather more certain to succeed are in fact accepted.
EHL love acting for clients who have suffered a wrong which we can help them put right. We especially love acting for clients who do not expect a free ride, who come to us with their eyes open as to what they are getting into and who expect to “put their money where their mouth is”!
To paraphrase an inscription outside one of my favourite shops: “clients wanted, full training given, must have own money!”
Alan Shackleton - Litigation
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