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Legal Funding and Legal Aid: They Are Not the Same

January 30, 2011
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3min read

We've already gotten a glimpse into how frustrating a Google search on legal funding can be in an earlier article discussing the plethora of "synonyms" used for the term. Well, the search term difficulties with legal funding don't end there. It is very likely that once you pick one of those mentioned "synonyms" to use in your search, at least one of the results returned won't be about legal funding at all, but instead, legal aid.

Admittedly, legal funding does aid those pursuing a legal claim.  But, "legal funding" and "legal aid" are completely different things.

Legal aid is the free, often government-sponsored legal assistance provided to those who can't afford legal counsel. In the United States, everyone under criminal prosecution is guaranteed legal aid.  Although legal aid services do exist for those pursuing some very specific types of civil claims such as those pertaining to immigration or domestic violence issues, it is usually not available for types of civil claims where a contingency lawyer could be obtained such as those concerning a personal injury.  It is also virtually never available for any civil claim that involves a recovery of money. Further, civil legal aid is never guaranteed.  In short, it is far from the norm. 

This means that by and large,  the main objective of legal aid is to help those being criminally accused prove their innocence.

But, "legal funding" and "legal aid" are completely different things.

On the other hand, the main objective of legal funding (in its most basic and common form as shown in this animated video) is  to specifically help those pursuing a legal claim that involves a monetary recovery,  i.e. those that have virtually no chance at getting legal aid.

That's because legal funders take a stake in any amounts actually recovered by plaintiffs. Essentially, legal funding is a free market solution provided by for-profit companies to help those with legal claims that preclude them from getting legal aid.

Both legal funding and legal aid help people get a fair shot at justice - they just serve very different parts of the justice system. We hope this clears up, once and for all, that legal funding and legal aid are not the same. I guess the only question left is, how do we get Google to share in this knowledge?

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