Burford set to benefit as legal costs system is shaken up

The country's biggest financial backer of lawsuits will start writing cheques to cover payments to expert witnesses as soon as radical reforms to litigation costs are introduced next month.

Lord Justice Jackson's proposals to cut costs and delays in civil cases will particularly hit the 'no win, no fee' industry. It will be in these firms' interests to keep costs of lawsuits down as damages awarded will be more proportionate.

The current system is thought to encourage unmerited cases, whereas now there will be financial risk for the claimant.

Alternative Investment Market-listed Burford Capital, which funds individual cases or a lawyer's portfolio of lawsuits for a return on any victories or settlements, believes it can make money out of paying for expert witnesses. The reforms mean that lawyers and their clients will have to pay their own costs, such as success fees and insurance premiums, rather than see them covered by the losing side.

Risk-averse lawyers might be happy to fight no win, no fee cases if the only cost is time, but Burford chief executive Chris Bogart thinks that they won't want to risk that they end up paying for experts even if they win. Burford would cover these costs but expect a slice of the winnings.

We would be taking some of the back-end risk," says Burford. "The Jackson changes have made every lawyer think more about legal economics."

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