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02 December 2008
The report, completed in partnership with Senior Costs Judge Peter Hurst, was commissioned by the Civil Justice Council. It is expected to help dispel fears prompted by controversial perceptions of the contingency fees system currently in place in the United States.
The report does, however, warn that overall levels of access to justice would be likely to fall as lawyers would become more limited in the cases that they could profitably take on. Smaller claims would be particularly affected.
In examining the system in place in the United States, Professor Moorhead and Judge Hurst found little evidence to support claims that contingency fees provide lawyers with an improper motive to settle claims early or that they promote a litigation culture.
Professor Moorhead said: "Although further study of contingency fees is needed, our report points to a considerable confidence that a contingency system in England and Wales would be viable.
"At a time when litigation in both countries is under intense scrutiny, the introduction of contingency fees could wipe out the majority of litigation based on challenges over legal fees. It should also reduce overall costs in the system, making them more proportionate to the sums in dispute".
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