In short, it was born out of frustration. Frustration in not being able to commercially help people and businesses with their small claims. (Small claims being claims at a value of £10,000 or less in the UK. I believe there are similar thresholds in other jurisdictions).
I believe most dispute resolution lawyers derive job satisfaction from being able to help people with their disputes. However, law firms are not charities, and whilst many will do pro bono work, in the main, they provide legal services to turn a profit. If they did not, they would not be in business for long.
The non-litigators amongst you may be asking, ‘well can’t the costs incurred be recovered from the loser?’
Unfortunately not. Costs are not recoverable in the small claims court (or track to give it it’s correct name) and therefore any costs incurred with a lawyer would come off the sums in dispute. And those costs could quite easily exceed the value of the claim which makes a commercial nonsense. The position is even worse if you are defending a claim as you are simply paying to defend yourself.
Even though the small claims court is supposed to be for lay people to use, the reality is quite different. And whether they admit it or not, the judiciary would much prefer to have a lawyer presenting a case than a lay person.
So there is no doubt there is a market there, and a sizeable one at that. Small claims account for over 50% of the claims in the County Court in the UK.
Chatting about this over the years with my friend, Stephen Ward (MD and Co-Founder of Clerksroom), we came up with the idea of using direct access barristers.
And the Small Claims Portal was born.
Removing the hindrance of law firm overheads, using the Direct Access Bar helps to keep the costs down while still providing expert litigation advice, drafting and advocacy skills.
There is still a cost to customers, and we appreciate that may still make some cases too low in value to make it worthwhile. Although we are finding that there are still people and business out there who want to have their day in Court even though it is not economic. It is just more economic for paying customers to use the Small Claims Portal.
For those that cannot afford, or do not want to pay the fees, there are free to use guides on the Portal which we continue to develop. And they can also seek help from Free Legal Advice Centres such as the Citizens Advice Bureau.
We also have other projects in the pipeline to use technology both to improve the service to paying customers and widen the availability of free help.
Finally, we believe in time, the Portal can increase the accessibility of the paid services to people and businesses. Watch this space!
ABOUT CHRIS MACCAFFERTY
Christopher MacCafferty is a solicitor, mediator, co-founder and CEO of Small Claims Portal.
He has been resolving disputes for over 20 years and is a former equity partner and head of litigation for a Legal 200 Law Firm.
While head of litigation at the Legal 200 law firm he delivered substantial financial growth, improved profitably and expanded the team’s expertise.
Christopher is described as a “responsive, thoughtful and commercial” litigator in the North West with particular expertise in property, commercial and construction disputes. (Chambers UK, 2014). He is also described as “attentive and very approachable“. (Chambers UK, 2014).
Clients like the “thoroughly commercial approach, and Christopher MacCafferty is “a good tactician and a tenacious litigator” (Legal 500, 2015). Christopher MacCafferty is recommended for property, construction, partnership and shareholder disputes (Legal 500, 2017).
Through his passion for resolving disputes and innovating, Small Claims Portal was formed (www.smallclaimsportal.com). The Portal is designed to fill the gap for much needed support of people and businesses battling through the Small Claims Court process.
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ABOUT SMALL CLAIMS PORTAL
The Small Claims Portal has been developed to help businesses and individuals deal with claims in the Small Claims Court in a cost effective way. If you are dealing with the claim yourself it will guide you through the procedures all the way to the final hearing. If you need legal help with the claim, at any stage, whether that is before you have issued the claim or during the court process, then the Small Claims Portal can find you that legal help. Finally, if you have reached the final hearing and need help presenting your case, the Small Claims Portal can assist you with your bundle preparation and arrange a barrister. The Small Claims Portal offers clear, fixed and transparent fees so customers know what it costs at every step and to ensure there are no surprises.
For more information, see:
FURTHER INFORMATION/PRESS INQUIRIES:
High Performance Counsel (HPC)
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London: +44 (07547) 128191
HPC website: https://www.highperformancecounsel.com