The most effective ways to pay a legal bill in the UK

Legal advice can be expensive, and the people who need it are often facing some of the most difficult situations of their lives.

Regardless of whether you need to pay your Solicitor for their work during divorce proceedings, have a bill for disbursements in a medical negligence case, or need to fund your defence in a criminal matter, there are lots of options available to you.

Here are some of the most popular ways to pay legal bills in the UK.

Legal aid

Legal aid has long been a staple of the legal advice payment structure, yet it’s availability has dwindled in recent years. Having been scrapped for divorce cases in 2013, legal aid is generally only available to those who are at risk of serious harm or homelessness, as well as those who have been accused of a crime and face detention. Even in these cases, clients will need to be able to show that they cannot afford to pay for legal costs themselves.

If you do qualify, you could get help to cover the costs of legal advice and even for representation in Court or at a mediation. More information about legal aid is available on the Government website.

Litigation loans

For family and civil litigation cases, litigation loans offer a relatively convenient way to access legal funding.

With a fast-growing marketplace of lenders, clients can request loan amounts that are generally based on the estimated quantum of their claim. Repayment is due once a settlement has been reached, and whilst the interest rates can be quite high, the entire process can usually be handled by the solicitor with little need for client input beyond signatures and approvals.

A personal loan

A major drawback of applying to a litigation lender is that your case will generally be assessed by an underwriter (non-lawyer) before any money can be released. This means that your funding application may not be granted and could even be withdrawn if the lender is uncomfortable with the context and progress of your case.

An alternative option is to take out a short-term personal loan. This could help clients to get the money they need without having to satisfy a loan company that their case has significant merit. By using an online loan broker such as Little Loans, you can access the money you need, when you need it.

The lenders from their panel are quick to pay out once an application has been accepted, and they’ll even match you with the direct lender that’s most likely to accept your application making it even easier to pay your legal bills.

No win no fee

You might recognise the term from TV and radio adverts, but no win no fee arrangements remain a popular way to manage legal bills in personal injury and other similar civil cases.

In the simplest possible terms, firms that accept no win no fee arrangements (which are also known as ‘conditional fee agreements’) will generally take out an insurance policy on behalf of their clients before commencing proceedings. This means that you won’t have to pay the fees if your claim is unsuccessful. In the event that your claim is successful, your legal bills will generally be recovered from the person, company, or institution that your claim was against.

Pro bono help

In certain cases, lawyers may be willing to take your case on a ‘pro bono’ basis. This means that they will work on your case for free.

It’s worth noting that this isn’t available to just anybody, and there will usually need to be compelling circumstances surrounding your case that make it appropriate for your legal advisers to work without charge.

If you feel that your case merits charitable support from law firms, you may be more likely to find assistance during Pro Bono Week. This is an annual event that runs during November each year, during which solicitors and other legal professionals are encouraged to take on cases free of charge.  

A Sears Tooth agreement

Similar to a no win no fee arrangement, a Sears Tooth agreement is effectively a deed that assigns a client’s settlement proceeds to their solicitor in order to cover the costs of the case. Used predominantly in divorce cases, this means that the legal costs will be taken first from any eventual settlement that is reached.

Sears tooth arrangements may not be available in particularly complex or risky cases, and it’s worth noting that some firms may require clients to agree to pay as a contingency if the settlement reached does not cover outstanding costs.

Making the right choice for your case

Anyone seeking legal advice is likely to have a lot on their mind, but it remains important to stay on top of case finances.

Which legal fees payment solution is right for you will depend on your own circumstances and those of your case, but it’s worth asking your legal adviser for guidance if you’re not sure. With so many options available, there’s sure to be a payment arrangement that works for you.