Introduced four years ago, ostensibly to allow ordinary people better access to justice, they were designed for personal injury cases. However, as the practice has spread to other civil actions, it has caused deep divisions within legal circles.
“It’s complete bonanza time for the firms which use them,” Hooper said. “You can always wheel out a few people who have had justice from CFAs but there are objections. One is that lawyers have a clear financial interest in the case and they can charge these enormous fees.”
In a newspaper’s challenge to the use of CFAs this year, the critics received support from Mr Justice Eady. In his judgment he said they had “the potential for a chilling effect on investigative journalism and for significant justice”. CFAs are now the subject of a review.
But libel firm Carter Ruck’s Guy Martin said that in the four years the firm has used them, it had “just about broken even” comparing success fees and lost costs. He told the Press Gazette: “It’s allowed us to act for people from all walks of life irrespective of their means, including school teachers, nurses and journalists.”