A Virtual Whip Round for Costs?

Posted by Michelle Barron on 17th May, 2016 in Opinion and categorised in .

We’ve all been in an office when a likeable colleague has left and the remaining staff have had a whip round to get them a leaving gift.

The 2016 name for a whip round is ‘crowdfunding.’ Although this may seem like a thoroughly modern concept, crowdfunding has actually existed in many forms over the years. Issuing war bonds during the Second World War was a way of crowdfunding the military, for example, and the donations political parties receive in the run up to the general election are also a type of crowdfunding.

Crowdfunding in its modern form is a new phenomenon thanks to the driving force of the Internet and social media and the global reach it now has. This has allowed crowdfunding to make a huge impact, across all sectors, since the initial popular and mainstream use in arts and music communities.

The first high profile instance of modern crowdfunding was in 1997, when fans underwrote an entire U.S. tour for the British rock group Marillion, raising $60,000 in donations by means of a fan-based Internet campaign. Since then, crowdfunding campaigns have supported everything from public pianos, to scotch malt distilleries.

One of the most popular Internet based crowdfunding organisations is Kickstarter. Since the platform’s launch in April 2009, 11 million people have backed projects, $2.4 billion has been pledged and 104,984 projects have been successfully launched. The response has been phenomenal.

So, if crowdfunding works in other areas – could there be a virtual whip round for legal costs?

The simple answer is – yes!

CrowdJustice has been created to empower communities to have a voice and to raise awareness of cases and the law with the general public. It allows better access to funding options and increases access and participation in legal issues.

Gloria Morrison, of the group Joint Enterprise: Not Guilty by Association commented on BBC R5 Live,  “It’s a really good platform – not just for raising money, but also for raising awareness”.

CrowdJustice has, so far, assisted in a challenge to the closure of Barnet libraries, an inquest into the stabbing of a schoolteacher, a challenge to the decision to dump hazardous waste next to schools, and women seeking legal advice on changes to state pension age - to name but a few.

Creating a CrowdJustice case page is straightforward. Once created, a client who is passionate about a subject can then use social media (and other means) to promote the cause, and get it funded. This works best where there is sufficient time to motivate a community or network to support the issue.

Crowdfunding in this way doesn’t change the relationship with the client. They are still ultimately responsible for all the costs of the case, as well as any adverse costs orders. Any funds raised through CrowdJustice go directly into the client account of the solicitor instructed. Donors are ‘pure funders’ – they do not get a financial return and they do not have any control over the litigation.

This type of funding can bring communities together around issues they care about so they don’t feel powerless. It can also build a donor base of people who care about law, access to justice and specific issues that arise in legal cases.

Although it will not be appropriate for every case, having as many funding and pricing options available for clients will create opportunities that may not have been previously accessible.


This article was written by Allistair Lang of Burcher Jennings.