A new initiative launching next month aims to provide a stream of funding for public interest cases which “clarify the law” and are unsuitable for crowdfunding.
Stephen Kinsella, a former competition lawyer and one of the founders of Law for Change, said he had discussed with commercial litigation funders whether they would donate to the community interest company (CIC).
Mr Kinsella, who retired from practice as a solicitor three years ago having been head of the European competition group at Sidley, said Law for Change had already funded nine cases, and was aiming to increase the number of cases from one to two a month.
This included a claim that the government failed to implement recommendations of the Grenfell Tower inquiry on emergency evacuation plans for disabled people, a High Court challenge to the government’s Rwanda asylum policy, and a claim by two Oxford University academics on fixed-term personal services contracts about employment rights.
A further case brought by human rights group Liberty against the Metropolitan Police, challenging the gangs violence matrix held by Scotland Yard, resulted in a complete redesign.
Mr Kinsella, who works part-time as a specialist partner at international business consultancy Flint Global, said: “I was concerned about how it was becoming harder for people to access the law and their rights.
“It had become increasingly difficult to get legal aid, and the judicial climate seemed to have changed, with some resistance to what was seen as judicial activism.
“I have contributed to crowdfunding campaigns. Crowdfunding tends to go to cases where you can tell a story and there is a lot of publicity. I wanted to set something up to support cases that would not get that funding.
“The cases would not be ‘our cases’, and we would not need to keep generating good publicity to encourage people to give £10.
“Cases just need to be heard sometimes. I try and avoid the win/loss thing. You can achieve a lot by getting a case properly aired without necessarily winning.”
Since Law for Change was not trying to raise funding from the public, Mr Kinsella said there was no need for it to be a charity, and it could be a CIC.
The other founders are businessman and entrepreneur David Graham, and Charles Keidan, an activist who campaigned successfully for a change in the law to allow heterosexual couples to register as civil partners.
Initial funding for the CIC is coming from the founders and a number of other individuals, with the aim of creating a “small, manageable club” of significant donors.
A panel of over 30 experienced lawyers helps Law for Change decide which cases to fund, while an ‘impact panel’ advises on strategy.
Mr Kinsella said had held discussions with five commercial litigation funders that might be prepared to make donations to Law for Change even where they had no control over a case.
“We only want to take on cases that clarify the law. It may be that they lead to compensation claims – we’re not interested in that.”
Mr Kinsella said that since Law for Change cases would be “generally be suitable for class actions and litigation funding”, there could be “potential benefits” for litigation funders in supporting them.
He said Law for Change was also interested in pro bono partnerships with big City law firms.
“If we have a case which requires heavy lifting in terms of files and evidence, we would like to bring in a big commercial law firm to do that. A lot of big firms want to do pro bono work and in this case there would no out-of-pocket expenses.”
He added: “For a limited budget, you can achieve a great deal on a case if you work with the right lawyers.
“There shouldn’t be a need for this. Proper legal aid should be providing the funding, but it isn’t.”