The Bar Council has joined forces with a legal credit finance specialist to enable direct access barristers to offer payment plans to their clients.
Under a partnership agreement, announced yesterday, BARCO, the Bar’s escrow account, will hold the loans obtained for clients by Legal Cost Finance (LCF).
Dr Yuri Rapoport, founder of LCF, said that a handful of cases were already being financed under the new arrangements, including a divorce and a consumer credit dispute.
“Barristers have generally been very loath to work with an entity not approved by the Bar Council,” Dr Rapoport said. “This has always been a barrier for us.
“Now that we have that recognition, it has taken away a lot of the questions about who we are and how we work. This gives us streamlined access to the barrister market.”
Dr Rapoport, who qualified as a lawyer in Australia, said restrictions on conditional fees and legal aid cuts had put pressure on barristers to be more accommodating about fees.
“This solution is going to become extremely useful to the point where it becomes indispensable,” Dr Rapoport said. “We are dealing with clients who want to save money and may have financial issues.”
Dr Rapoport said LCF applied for loans on behalf of clients, acting as an intermediary, and linked them to payment plans. The client pays LCF an arrangement fee and interest on the loan to the lender.
“The service is costs neutral to clients,” Dr Rapoport said. “We negotiate a discount from the barrister to offset the costs of finance – the arrangement fee and the interest.”
Dr Rapoport added that, should there be disputes, LCF had its own dispute resolution process.
A spokesman for the Bar Council said the benefits of the LCF scheme for barristers were the ability to secure more instructions by offering affordable payment solutions, access to a convenient billing system and guarantee of funds to cover future costs.
Unlike litigation funding, the spokesman said LCF would provide direct financing not restricted to any particular type of legal matter or tied to the chances of success.
Paul Mosson, director of services at the Bar Council, said he believed the new service would “provide barristers with another valuable tool to secure work by presenting a payment solution for their clients, offering peace of mind to both the barrister and the client”.