Letter:Cutting legal fees will mean less justice

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The Independent Online
Sir: It is impossible not to sympathise with Michael Bolger, but I dispute the conclusions invited by Patricia Wynn Davies' article (26 July).

As a former solicitor, and now a practising barrister, I have had a wide experience of lay clients. One client would not accept the view of any expert, however able, unless it exactly coincided with her ideas of what was the cause of her husband's death. Another would not accept that his colostomy could not be blamed upon the solicitor and estate agent who had negligently handled his house sale. These, and many others, would all tell you, mistakenly, that the legal system for claiming compensation had let them down.

There are a vast number of people like this and most of them will be persuaded by the publicity surrounding Lord Woolf's initiative that, by waving a magic wand, the noble Lord will give them exactly what they want, when they want it. In other words, that a plaintiff will no longer have to go through the tedious process of proving his claim when the defendant disputes it, but that suddenly his path will be smoothed and in a brace of shakes, judgment will be given for him. They are in for a great disappointment.

Many cases take so long partly because the defendants do not always agree that they have been negligent and so on; partly because those who insure or employ defendants seek to avoid payment of damages; and partly because all those involved, one way or another, in the litigation process - doctors, lawyers, surveyors, actuaries, as well as lay witnesses - all have lives to lead and do not, or cannot, regard Plaintiff A as the only star in their firmament. And partly because (in legal aid cases) fees are low and the lawyer who has to make a living cannot give all his attention to one case. Cutting fees still further will mean less justice and a longer time to achieve it.