We are flexible about how we charge for work. It can usually be made affordable.
The most efficient method is to work on a normal commercial basis. We will charge on the basis of time spent, and add disbursements such as counsel's and expert's fees, court fees, travel, copying etc., and VAT. We will render invoices periodically as may be agreed - for example, monthly, quarterly, or after particular milestones have passed.
The advantage of this is that the litigation is completely under the client's control. "He who pays the piper calls the tune". We are happy to provide details of our current rates, and (to give an idea of what cases cost) experience of costs of other cases.
The other methods set out below are usually satisfactory - but they can, in some circumstances, result in a tension between the client and the funder.
For example, where a case is publicly funded, a client may want to continue, but the Legal Aid Agency (usually on our or counsel's advice) considers that the risks are too great to justify the funding.
The same is true of cases conducted on a conditional fee basis or with the support of insurers. That can be annoying when despite this scepticism you (or we) consider you still might have won. We have run, and eventually won, several cases where we were advised the odds were stacked against us.
For clients who qualify financially, legal aid may be available. It is possible for cases to be brought in the public interest - good for environmental cases. It is also possible for one individual who qualifies financially to bring a claim on behalf of a wider community who will benefit, although that wider community usually is required to make a contribution to the costs.
For some matters we can work on a fixed fee basis. This is practicable for specific advice work. A variant of this, which is particularly useful for initial advice or other preliminary action in a case or potential case, is to work at an agreed rate but subject to a cap. It is not usually practicable to run a case through the courts on a fixed fee basis.
Conditional fees are arrangements (often known as "no-win, no-fee", or "no-win, some-fee") which means you pay us nothing (or less, depending on what is agreed) if you lose a case, but a full fee (possibly with an "uplift": again, subject to agreement) if you win. If you win a court case you can usually recover most of your costs, including the uplift, from the other side.
We find it more satisfactory for the client to pay something (for example, half commercial rates) rather than nothing, because it is always more satisfactory if the client has some genuine interest in a case. However, we are open minded - some people simply cannot afford to take any risk.
The danger of having to pay not only your own costs but the other side's costs as well if you lose, is a constant worry. However, there are ways of dealing with this, including obtaining insurance. People often have insurance as part of a household policy. "After the event" insurance is expensive, and can be difficult to obtain at all, especially in judicial review cases. However, it can make people sleep easier.
Costs and costs exposure can of course be shared, for example between residents. This can make what would otherwise be frightening, entirely manageable. You may not be prepared to commit a five figure sum to trying to remedy or avoid an environmental nuisance (for example, aircraft noise). However, you may feel a substantial contribution to a group in three or even four figures is worth it - particularly as these sorts of nuisances can affect the value of your house, not to mention your daily amenity.
Situations vary, but we will usually ask for some funding "up front". This is put on client account and can be used to pay invoices as a matter proceeds, or as security that invoices will be paid. We have had very few difficulties with clients paying bills. However one or two bad experiences have, unfortunately, led us to be cautious about this. Clients can save money by being organised. Our "bottom line": we want to solve people's environmental problems, and are prepared to work with them to find affordable ways of doing so.