Category Archives: Willem H. van Boom

Juxtaposing BTE and ATE: the Role of the European Insurance Industry in Funding Civil Litigation

Willem H. van Boom*

(2010) Oxford U Comparative L Forum 1 at | How to cite this article


One of the ways in which legal services are financed, and indeed shaped, is through private insurance arrangements. Two contrasting types of legal expenses insurance contracts (LEI) seem to dominate in Europe: before the event (BTE) and after the event (ATE) legal expenses insurance. Notwithstanding institutional differences between different legal systems, BTE and ATE insurance arrangements may be instrumental if government policy is geared towards strengthening a market-oriented system of financing access to justice for individuals and business. At the same time, emphasizing the role of a private industry as a keeper of the gates to justice raises issues of accountability and transparency, not readily reconcilable with demands for competitive markets. Moreover, multiple actors (clients, lawyers, courts, insurers) are involved, causing behavioural dynamics which are not easily predicted or influenced.

Against this background, this article looks into BTE and ATE arrangements by analysing the particularities of BTE and ATE arrangements currently available in some European jurisdictions against the backdrop of their respective markets and legal contexts. This allows for some reflection on the performance of BTE and ATE providers as both financiers and keepers of the gates to justice. Two issues emerge from the analysis that are worthy of some further reflection. Firstly, the long-term sustainability of some ATE products appears problematic. Secondly, policymakers that would like to nudge consumers into voluntarily taking out BTE LEI are facing certain challenges.

JEL classification: G22, K12, K41

Keywords: legal expenses insurance, conditional fee arrangement, after the event insurance

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