Crowdfunding a legal case
Crowdfunding defamation claims, civil litigation, criminal defence and criminal appeals
Brett Wilson has a partnership with CrowdJustice that allows clients to crowdfund legal fees for their cases. A litigant can use the platform to make a public or private appeal for funding. The platform can also be used to marshal money where a number of individuals have already agreed to fund a matter. The easy-to-use system allows litigants access to justice, where it otherwise might not be feasible.
What type of legal cases can crowdfunding be used for?
Crowdfunding can be used for nearly every type of legal case. At Brett Wilson, this might include bringing or defending a defamation matter, complex civil litigation, pursuing a criminal appeal or defending criminal/regulatory proceedings.
How does it work?
The platform works in a similar way to other well-known forms of online crowdfunding, such as GoFundMe and JustGiving.
If we agree to act for you and accept funds via crowdfunding, and CrowdJustice accepts your case, then you will need to create an online profile for your campaign. The profile may be set up as a public or private page. It is important that we review the profile before it goes live, so that it does not contain any information that may prejudice your case.
Once you have set up your campaign profile, it is your job to promote it. You may choose to do this on social media (for example, on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn) – to reach the largest potential network of donors - or privately, by circulating it with login details to a select few.
Individuals donate what they want. If you are seeking to raise, say, £5,000, this could be achieved by 1,000 individuals each donating £5, five individuals donating £1,000 or any other combination.
Is there a minimum amount I need to raise?
You need to set a ‘target’.
We will normally ask all clients to pay a sum on client account in line with the first stage of work (typically at least £2,500). It may be that your target is fixed at this level. However, in other cases, your target may be much higher. For instance, where it is likely the matter will proceed to trial and your only way of funding it is by crowdfunding. In this situation, you may want the certainty of knowing that a substantial amount of funding is in place before you instigate litigation.
What happens to money raised?
Once your target is met, money will be transferred to our client account. This money will be applied to any invoices we raise in respect of our fees. Any money raised beyond the target is automatically transferred to our client account on a weekly basis.
What if I do not reach my target?
The money pledged is returned to your donors.
How successful is a legal crowdfunding campaign likely to be?
This will depend on how well you promote your crowdfunding page and the number of people who are sympathetic to your cause and/or are willing to help you.
If you are happy for the matter to be promoted more widely, you can ask people in your network to share your profile page to increase its reach.
Does my case have to be of public importance?
No. Your case may simply concern something that is important to you, where friends and family might be in a position to help you out. However, if you are promoting your case beyond your network, then it is more likely to be successful if there is something about it that will attract public sympathy. This does not mean your case needs to be a “landmark legal case”.
Can I update my crowdfunding profile as my case progresses?
Yes, you can update your crowdfunding profile as your case progresses. This can be done in order to push for further funds (existing donors will be contacted by email). Again, you should make sure we review the content before it goes live.
What is the relationship between myself and my solicitors in a crowdfunded case?
The relationship between yourself and Brett Wilson is no different to what it would be if you were paying out of your own pocket. Indeed, you will remain liable for our fees at all times. The crowdfunding platform is simply a mechanism to help you raise funding. Ultimately, it remains your responsibility to fund the case (and promote your crowdfunding page). If crowdfunding does not raise sufficient funds then you will need to arrange an alternative source of funding to continue instructing the firm. It is important you consider this carefully before committing to any legal action.
Can I part-fund my legal case using crowdfunding?
Yes, crowdfunding can be a handy way of helping you with your legal fees at any stage of your case (including an existing case).
What does it cost?
A legal crowdfunding platform costs nothing to set up. CrowdJustice charges a 3% fee, together with a payment processing fee of 3%. This means that for every £1 donated to your campaign, 94p will be transferred to our client account to be set off against any invoice we raise for your legal fees.
What happens if there are unused funds at the end of a case?
Any individuals pledges below £1,000 are donated by CrowdJustice to charity at the conclusion of a case (presently CrowdJustice is donating money to the Access to Justice Foundation). Individual pledges over this amount are returned to donors on a pro rata basis. A condition of using the CrowdJustice scheme is that you cannot retain any funds donated to your campaign.
What if I win my case and a costs order is made against my opponent?
If legal costs are recovered from your opponent, any that have been received through CrowdJustice will be treated as ‘unused’ and dealt with as above.
Are my donors investing in my case?
No. They are not lending you money and they have no legal interest in the outcome of the litigation. They are gifting you money on the condition that it is used for your legal fees. They will have no entitlement to any return, save for a partial refund in the circumstances set out above. Similarly, donors will have no say in the conduct of your case or be entitled to receive information about it (we will not be able to discuss your case with them). It is important that you do not tell donors anything that contradicts this. If a donor has a legal interest in litigation, or has an element of control over its conduct, they may cease to be a ‘pure funder’ and in certain circumstances be liable for any adverse costs order.
Can donors donate anonymously?
Yes. When a donor pledges an amount, they have the option to choose whether they want their identity to be published on your profile page.
How do I proceed?
If you have a legal case that you believe is suitable for crowdfunding please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please summarise your case succinctly and dispassionately in less than 750 words. You should set out why you think your claim is suitable for crowdfunding.
Remember, a crowdfunding page on its own will rarely raise any funds. You will need to promote the campaign. We cannot do this for you.
If we think your case is suitable for crowdfunding we will get in touch with you and give you an indication of probable costs and a suitable initial target. If you wish to move forward, we will connect you with our partners at CrowdJustice. Assuming they accept your case, they will help you create a profile page.
Please note that we cannot advise you on the merits of any claim (or review material) unless and until we are placed in sufficient funds. If you wish to seek some preliminary advice on your case then we offer fixed fee preliminary consultations for this purpose. A consultation can be arranged by contacting email@example.com.