Law

How Britain’s most controversial legal cases are being crowdfunded

By Oliver Smith 25 July 2017
Julia Salasky, co-founder of CrowdJustice.
Summary

Julia Salasky is on a mission to build Kickstarter for the law.

You might not have realised it, but many of the most high-profile legal cases in Britain’s history are being crowdfunded, by people just like you.

Gina Miller’s fight against the UK Government triggering Article 50 without a parliamentary vote? Among her fellow claimants was Grahame Pigney, who crowdfunded his £150,000 legal case with the help of nearly 5,000 online supporters.

The case alleging that Theresa May’s deal with the DUP breaches the Good Friday Agreement? Backed by nearly nearly 3,000 crowdfunders, who’ve pledged over £63,000 so far.

And the platform that enabled these, and dozens of other cases, to get funded? CrowdJustice, a crowdfunding site started in 2015 by former Linklaters lawyer Julia Salasky.

Meet CrowdJustice

“It just struck me that the need for access to the legal system in the UK was growing,” Salasky told The Memo.

Indeed since 2010 the number of UK legal cases supported by Legal Aid – Government help given to the poorest people to get legal advice and representation – has nearly halved.

From 925,000 Legal Aid-backed cases in 2012, down to just 497,000 the following year.

That means for the poorest in our society, the law has never been more inaccessible, and that’s a huge issue because as Salasky puts it:

“The law is a very powerful tool for change, it enables people to achieve concrete outcomes in their personal lives or for social justice issues.”

And so the idea for CrowdJustice was born, an attempt to clear one of the biggest obstacles to the legal system, that of funding, with an online platform.

Today anyone can go to CrowdJustice and list their legal case, from a judicial review of a council decision to scrap its local park to opposing an unlawful badger culling.

The biggest surprise for Salasky wasn’t CrowdJustice’s success in dealing with these fairly mundane cases, but how just two years on how the platform has been harnessed to fund some of Britain’s most controversial cases.

Brexit, and beyond

“I didn’t know what to expect when I started CrowdJustice, I definitely didn’t have any idea that some of the cases would touch on such issues of national importance,” says Salasky.

Despite Gina Miller’s case and the challenge against May’s deal with the DUP getting such widespread attention, Salasky says she’s determined to keep CrowdJustice perfectly neutral.

“Our mission is to increase access to the legal system, to create a platform where people can articulate their legal case in a way that allows the public to understand what the law can do.”

“Sometimes cases are political, we don’t take a stand on that, but we are excited to be able to enable lots of people to access the legal system.”

And while these high-profile cases are undoubtedly excellent advertising for CrowdJustice, they’re not really its bread and butter.

The vast vast majority of cases funded through CrowdJustice remain far more mundane.

So whether you’re challenging Brexit, or just an unlawful badger cull, maybe it’s time to crowdfund your case.