Crowdfunding Puts Access to Justice in the Hands of the People
Crowdfunding is the practice of funding projects or business ventures online by raising small amounts of money from the public, usually via the Internet. A San Francisco attorney, D. Inder Comar, recently turned to crowdfunding to raise money for a pro bono matter he was handling. Mr. Comar’s case hit a chord with the public and he eventually raised approximately $6,000 in 45 days.
This result showcases that the general public is receptive to fund cases of interest that are in need of litigation funding, but do not fit the requirements of consumer or commercial litigation funders. Crowdfunding allows the public to support a case they believe in, and by doing so, provides access to justice for a segment of the population that may not have the means to initiate or continue their claims in court. On the other hand, opponents of alternative litigation financing may raise the concern that giving the public the decision to fund cases may lead to frivolous lawsuits as the general public cannot properly judge how good legal claims are. However, if we let a jury of our peers decide on the paramount issues of life, liberty and property, why not allow the public a chance to put their money into causes they believe in? Some are against crowdfunding for litigation because they say it will increase frivolous claims. But the idea that anyone would put their own hard-earned money into a frivolous claim does not make sense.
The issues surrounding crowdfunding do not stop there. Attorneys that turn to crowdfunding as a means to finance their case should beware of ethical concerns that come into play when third parties are involved. These ethical concerns include preserving the attorney-client privilege and fee splitting. But so long as an attorney is in compliance with their ethical duties to the client, crowdfunding fills a space in the litigation finance market that puts the decision to fund in the hands of the people. Time will tell whether the crowdfunding approach to litigation finance is a passing fad.