Funding your Legal Representation: A Third Way?

Written 14th December 2016 by Ruth Peters

When you have been made the subject of criminal proceedings, the last thing you want to be worrying about is how you are going to fund your legal representation.

At Olliers, we aim to make this aspect of the case as straightforward as possible for our clients.

At the outset of the case, we discuss with our clients all options of funding available to them and ensure that an arrangement is put in place which best suits their circumstances and finances.

Conventional means of funding: Legally aided versus privately paying?

In our experience, many clients assume the following position in relation to funding: either that your case is legally aided or, alternatively, you pay privately.

These are, of course, two funding options potentially available to you:

Legal Aid Criminal Defence Lawyers

Certain individuals automatically qualify for legal aid, such as those who are under 18 or who are in receipt of a “passported” benefit (examples of which include income-based Job Seeker’s Allowance and Universal Credit). If you are over 18 and earning, however, a means test will be necessary in order to determine whether or not you qualify. Overall household earnings are taken into account in this assessment and the type of case and where it is being heard– i.e. magistrates’ or crown court – will need to be considered, as these matters may also have a bearing upon eligibility.

If you are eligible for legal aid, your case will either be fully funded, or partly funded with contributions, depending upon your individual circumstances.

Privately Funded Criminal Defence Lawyers

If you are not eligible for legal aid, or do not wish to rely upon legal aid for some other reason, then your only other option is to pay privately…or is it?

Legal Expenses Insurance Cover

There is, in fact, a third way of funding the cost of criminal proceedings, often overlooked: Legal Expenses Insurance Cover (“LEI”). This is sometimes referred to as Legal Protection Insurance or Legal Insurance.

What is Legal Expenses Insurance?

LEI provides cover for costs incurred in legal disputes you are involved in, meaning that you do not have to pay for your legal representation out of your own pocket. Instead, your insurer (or those who underwrite them) will do this.

LEI is usually sold as an “add on” to car or home insurance, for a small premium (typically £20.00-£25.00) or, in the case of some deluxe policies, for free. Certain bank accounts and credit cards also offer LEI as a feature.

How do I know whether I am covered?

Because LEI is sometimes offered as a freebie, many people have cover available to them but are not aware that they do.

All policies are different, so the best thing to do is refer to the terms and conditions of the policy in question or, alternatively, contact your provider, to establish whether you have LEI and, specifically, whether your cover extends to criminal proceedings.

What are the benefits of relying upon Legal Expenses Insurance?

The benefit of relying upon LEI is that you will not have to meet the up-front costs of legal representation. You may also have a particular solicitor or barrister in mind whom you would like to represent you in the proceedings, and your insurer may well be able to cover their legal fees, even if you cannot afford to do so personally. For these reasons alone, LEI is a worthwhile consideration.

Is there anything I should be aware of?

You will need to check carefully your terms and conditions to see whether relying upon your LEI cover will have an impact upon your “no claims bonus” or your premium. It is also worth noting that there is a limit to how much cover you will be provided under LEI – usually it is between £50,000.00 and £100,000.00 mark. Some insurers may also limit the rates payable to lawyers and this may be less than the charging rate of the lawyer you wish to instruct. Lastly, policies will not offer cover for disputes that arose before the insurance was taken out.

Contact our Specialist Criminal Defence Lawyers (London & Manchester)

At Olliers, our experienced lawyers are able to provide guidance to our clients in relation to funding matters. Please contact our team on 0161 834 1515 to discuss any queries you may have in relation to funding your criminal case.

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