Just in the last few days we have read:
1. The government is unlikely to do anything about the almost complete disappearance of legal aid;
2. Court fees are set to rise further out of reach;
3. The number of applications to court has decreased significantly.
Now, I’m not saying that court proceedings are a good thing for families or individuals. The more people who can mediate, collaborate or even arbitrate their way to solutions, the better. Just about everyone is in favour of compulsory information sessions, delivered by a mediator, in most cases before any application to the court can be made. Lawyers prefer the certainty of out of court solutions anyway.
But what about choice? What about those cases where the issues cannot be resolved by informal means? These cases will always exist – and, the reality is fast becoming that only the very well off will be able to ask the court for a resolution. The courts are now full of self representing litigants, who take up enormous time and resources. The court system itself, which apparently the government wants to be increasingly funded by court fees, cannot deliver the speed and quality of service one would expect, especially in civil claims where the fees are truly eye-watering.
The message seems clear. Choose a no court solution if you can. If not, seek consent to use arbitration as a form of private justice. If that fails, those that can still afford to use the court system and lawyers will need to pay higher prices to join an ever growing queue of self representing litigants.
It would actually be the moral choice to “go private” so the burden and cost on the state reduces and the fees normalise over time.