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Leveraging global insights: UK Civil Legal Aid Review

Leveraging global insights: UK Civil Legal Aid Review


The UK government's Civil Legal Aid Review draws upon international comparisons to enhance its approach to delivering legal aid, aiming for sustainability and effectiveness

In response to the publication of an international comparator report examining civil legal aid systems in six countries, including the Netherlands, Law Society of England and Wales president Nick Emmerson emphasised the importance of adopting innovative practices from similar jurisdictions. He highlighted the recognition of "holistic, society-wide services" as crucial for resolving civil legal issues effectively.

While acknowledging the potential of technology in legal aid, Nick Emmerson stressed the irreplaceable value of face-to-face services, particularly for digitally excluded individuals or complex cases. Moreover, he underscored the need for a balanced approach between oversight and provider autonomy to foster trust and address sustainability challenges.

Nick Emmerson mentioned the Law Society's exploration of the Netherlands model highlighted in the report and its potential translation into the UK context. However, he cautioned that barriers need addressing for effective implementation. He reiterated the overarching goal of the review: ensuring the sustainability of civil legal aid, recognising its current precarious state and the millions of individuals unable to access necessary support.

The comparative analysis conducted as part of the review examined systems in Australia, Canada, Finland, the Netherlands, and the USA, including Scotland within the UK. The aim was to identify promising approaches to enhance efficiency and effectiveness in delivering civil legal aid and access to justice. The report, conducted by The Open Innovation Team, offers valuable insights to inform policy development and improve the UK's legal aid system.

As the review progresses, it underscores the imperative for government funding and investment to sustain legal aid work for solicitors and not-for-profit providers, essential pillars of the civil legal aid system. Ultimately, the review aims to implement reforms that ensure accessibility, fairness, and effectiveness in delivering legal aid services to those in need.