May It Please The Court

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May It Please The Court
by Leonard Rivkin
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Quote of the Day - To escape jury duty in England, wear a bowler hat and carry a copy of the Daily telegraph. - John Mortimer
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Keep a Stiff Upper Lip, Old Chap, and Pay My Fee

I don't know which is worse: contingency lawyers who want more money or insurance companies that won't pay. Across the big pond, solicitors and insurers got into a "wrangle" (that's British for fight, I guess) over no-win, no-fee cases.

First introduced in England and Wales in 1995, the no-win, no-fee program was designed to replace legal aid funding for low-end tort cases, such as traffic accidents and the like. The idea was to encourage solicitors (another British term for lawyer) to take the case to earn a contingency fee.

The argument between the lawyers and insurers centered on what else - money. In this case, it was how much the insurers had to pay the lawyers upon a win.

Reporter (not actress) Maureen O'Hara of The Guardian informs us that laywers have now agreed to take 12.5 percent of a settlement as a fee, and the insurers have agreed to pay that rate. Insurers had been holding up payments to solicitors for the last two years because they believed the success fees taken before the agreement were too high.

Too high? On this side of the big pond, contingency lawyers get anywhere between 20 to 50 percent of the deal, and no-win, no-fee has been part of the deal all along. Alaska has such a system, and two other states, Oregon and Oklahoma have a hybrid version. The Overlawyered blog has a thoughtful article on the whole subject. Of course, we don't have the English version of legal aid funding for tort cases. Yet.

Heaven help us. Now someone over here will probably get that bright idea.

In England, however, the rule is that the loser pays the winner's fees. Some here argue for application of the so-called "English Rule." Some have even argued that since American lawyers have such an upside, they ought to also have the downside of paying the winner when they lose.

Talk about tort reform. With those rules in place, none would be needed.

Posted by J. Craig Williams on Wednesday, October 08, 2003 at 08:18 Comments (0)


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