AS legal funding models go crowdfunding is still very much in its infancy, but if the past year is anything to go by it is starting to come into its own.

After the success of high-profile campaigns run by politicians Clara Ponsati - who raised cash to fight extradition proceedings brought against her by the Spanish state – and Alex Salmond – who raised £100,000 via the Crowdfunder site prior to bringing judicial review proceedings against the Scottish Government – this year has seen a number of legal cases get under way thanks to the backing of the crowd.

In April, lawyer Ralph Riddiough raised £15,000 via the CrowdJustice site in order to challenge some Scottish local authorities’ practice of charging for musical instrument tuition in schools, something he believes is in contravention of the 1980 Education Scotland Act.

While crowdfunding has been vital in enabling Mr Riddiough to bring the case, which aims to clarify the position for all Scottish school children, the lawyer he instructed to act on his behalf - Balfour & Manson chairman Elaine Motion – has also been at the forefront of the crowdfunding trend.

Ms Motion was the instructing solicitor on all the Brexit-related cases that made their way through the Scottish courts over the past year and a half, all of which have been funded by the Good Law Project via CrowdJustice campaigns.

She said earlier this year that crowdfunding has been a key driver of public-interest litigation because it has enabled many people who have an interest in a particular cause to have a stake in a legal process they would have no hope of funding by themselves.

“A small amount of money here and there makes a huge difference,” she said.

The Good Law Project is an organisation that was established by English barrister Jolyon Maugham QC to, as it says on its website, “bring strategic legal cases to change how the law works and to drive demand for further law change”.

The highest-profile case it brought this year, with Ms Motion as instructing solicitor, saw the Court of Session rule that Prime Minister Boris Johnson had acted unlawfully when he prorogued parliament for five weeks at the height of the Brexit crisis.

The organisation raised over £200,000 from close to 8,000 supporters to bring the action, having previously raised a similar sum to fund its successful Article 50 case, which last year went all the way to the Court of Justice of the European Union and established that the UK could cancel Brexit without the say-so of the other 27 European member states.

Away from the courts, 2019 also saw consolidation remain a key theme for the legal sector, with firms of all shapes and sizes continuing to reinvent themselves via acquisition.

Dundee firm Thorntons has been no stranger to merger deals in the past few years, bulking up along the east coast first via the acquisition of a series of small firms and then by buying the majority of failed firm Pagan Osborne out of administration.

This theme continued in 2019, with the firm stepping in to acquire the eight-partner Edinburgh base of legal business Morisons when that firm filed for administration in March.

Fellow Dundee firm Blackadders, which has also secured a number of bolt-ons in recent years, also benefited from Morisons’ demise, with the firm taking over its three-partner Glasgow base.

Elsewhere, Edinburgh firm Davidson Chalmers combined with smaller rival Kergan Stewart in May, with the enlarged business, which has offices in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Galashiels, rebranding as Davidson Chalmers Stewart to reflect the change.

More recently both Anderson Strathern and Lindsays have bolstered their offerings via bolt-on deals, with the former taking on three-partner Glasgow practice Hardy Macphail while the latter took on two-partner Edinburgh firm Hadden Rankin.

Both deals went live in October, with the management at both Anderson Strathern and Lindsays hailing how the deals would complement the services they already offer to clients.

Finally, the Scottish Government continued to show its willingness to reshape the way the legal sector operates, this month announcing that it plans to consult on proposals that would see mediation become a fundamental part of the dispute resolution process.

The move came after professional body Scottish Mediation carried out an independent review of the use of mediation in the civil justice system during the first half of this year.

The consultation, which will launch in the early part of 2020, is the third the Government announced this year, with one on the future of legal aid closing in September and another on how the legal profession is regulated due to open in the new year.