Civil Legal Aid Review looks to international jurisdictions for guidance

The UK government has today published its international comparator report examining how civil legal aid is delivered in six other countries, as part of its Civil Legal Aid Review.

Our president Nick Emmerson said: “We welcome this research looking at innovative ways to deliver civil legal aid by considering best practice from similar jurisdictions around the world.

“We are glad to see the report has recognised the importance of ‘holistic, society-wide services’ in helping people to resolve their civil legal issues. There is no replacement for publicly-funded information, guidance and advice to ensure people get the independent, trusted and expert support they need.

“The report rightly recognises that ‘technology is not a panacea when it comes to legal aid’. While technology offers the opportunity to provide people with more ways to get legal advice, there is no substitute for the face-to-face services that are particularly vital for those who are digitally excluded, complex cases or those involving people with particular vulnerabilities.

“The importance of getting the right balance between effective oversight and provider autonomy is also noted.”

Nick concluded: “High levels of bureaucracy contribute to the crisis of sustainability, and the lack of autonomy can create an atmosphere of mistrust between the Legal Aid Agency and its providers.

“The Law Society has already started work to explore how the Netherlands model* highlighted in the report could translate into an England and Wales context.

“While it has the potential to address some of the problems in our current legal aid system, there are several barriers that would need to be overcome for it to work and we will be setting these out in further evidence to the Civil Legal Aid Review later this year.

“However, it’s important to remember that the overarching aim of the review is to make civil legal aid sustainable for the long-term, recognising that it is currently close to collapse resulting in millions** of people being unable to access the support they need.

“Any alternative model will simply not work unless the government provides the funding and investment needed to ensure that legal aid work is financially sustainable for both solicitors and not for profit providers who are the backbone of the civil legal aid system.”

Notes to editors

Read the Review of civil legal aid: Comparative analysis of legal aid systems report

* The Netherlands model includes a triage model for identifying, triaging, and prioritising cases, build trust and autonomy between oversight bodies and providers and a 360-degree feedback loops for continuous improvement of legal aid.

The report examines the systems in Australia, Canada, Finland, the Netherlands the USA, within the United Kingdom and Scotland.

** Read about our civil legal aid deserts

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