In England and Wales “No Win, No Fee” describes two methods of funding litigation. The Conditional Fee Arrangement and the Contingency Fee Arrangement. The difference between them is that in the former costs are recovered from the loser and in the latter from the awarded damages. For obvious reasons, you cannot get a “No win, No fee” divorce, though some firms may defer the fee.
Conditional Fee Arrangements can in principle be used for any case worth more than £5,000 that takes place in the County Court or High Court. In practice they are mostly used by claimants for non-medical Personal Injury cases. These arrangements are possible because in the County and High Courts costs are routinely awarded against the loser. Lawyers can charge up to 100% extra if they win a Conditional Fee Arrangement in order to offset the cases they do not win. If a case brought under a Conditional Fee Arrangement is lost, the loser may have to pay the other side’s costs. Insurance is available to cover this. These arrangements can be used for other litigation, but the client will be expected to pay for a risk assessment. Risk assessments cost anything from a few hundred to several thousand pounds depending on the case and there is no guarantee the lawyer will agree to take it on.
Contingency Fee Arrangements are usually banned – a lawyer should advise their client to settle when appropriate, not push for a larger amount to increase their fee. They are allowed in some specialist circumstances such as claims in the Employment Tribunal and Criminal Injury Compensation because in these cases legal costs are not recoverable from the other side. Risk assessments must almost always be paid for but tend to be cheaper – hundreds rather than thousands of pounds.