AS BUSINESSES such as BrewDog have shown, you can achieve a lot when you harness the power of the crowd.

The craft brewer has managed to transform itself into a £1 billion business thanks to small investments from thousands of fans of its beer. A growing number of litigants are following its lead by turning to the masses to help fund their cases.

Take Carla Ponsatí. The former Catalan government minister who is living in exile in St Andrews - where she is a professor in the university’s School of Economics and Finance - is defending herself against the might of the Spanish state.

Because of her role in last year’s Catalonian independence referendum, which was illegal under Spanish law, the Spanish government is seeking to extradite Ms Ponsatí to face charges including violent rebellion and misappropriation of public funds.

Although she is being represented by lawyer Aamer Anwar there is just one problem: while the human rights specialist has made a name for himself fighting seemingly impossible cases, his firm does not have the resources to handle such a high-profile international matter on its own.

Having already instructed London firm Bindberg Peirce, Mr Anwar expects to rack up significant costs by enlisting a team of counsel and expert witnesses as well as lawyers in Ireland, Spain and Catalonia to build the case against Ms Ponsatí’s extradition.

“It was inconceivable that my firm could carry this case, which is huge,” Mr Anwar said.

“We’ll potentially be taking on the Spanish state, the judiciary, the police. We could quite easily need resources of half a million to a million pounds.”

Luckily for Ms Ponsatí, what Mr Anwar lacks in resources he makes up for in resourcefulness and having seen the reaction he got on Twitter when announcing he had been instructed by Ms Ponsatí he decided to turn to the crowd for help.

“As soon as I put up that I was representing Clara, Twitter went mental,” Mr Anwar said. “I’ve never seen anything like it but I thought there was a potential platform there.

“We had to think outside the box because this is potentially the biggest international case that will come to the Scottish Courts.”

The gamble paid off: as soon as the case went up on CrowdJustice, a website dedicated to sourcing funds for legal disputes, it repeatedly smashed targets that went up in £50,000 increments.

The total raised is currently sitting at nearly £230,000 from over 7,500 people.

Part of the reason is that Ms Ponsatí’s case has struck a chord with many in the Scottish independence movement who feel an affinity with the Catalan cause. However, it appears that what Mr Anwar called the "David and Goliath" nature of the case may be driving more widespread support from crowdfunders.

In other words, it is resonating because it is exactly the kind of public interest case that three-year old CrowdJustice - which gives ordinary people a stake in the kind of landmark cases none would have a hope of bringing on their own - was set up to support.

Others include the successful challenge to the release of black cab rapist John Worboys, which was brought by two of his victims, as well as a case that went all the way to the Supreme Court and ultimately confirmed that an act of parliament was needed before Article 50 could be triggered in relation to Brexit.

Unlike equity crowdfunding, which sees ordinary people invest what they can in businesses such as BrewDog in return for a shareholding, legal crowdfunding operates on a donation-only model, meaning nobody that contributes to these cases stands to make any money from them.

For those involved in the action, though, having the crowd’s backing can mean the difference between being able to access justice or not.

This has not been lost on Ms Ponsatí, whose extradition hearing will begin in Edinburgh on April 12. As Mr Anwar said: “Tears welled up in her eyes when I told her how much we had raised.”