LawWorks ? Deloitte
Access to justice charity LawWorks has teamed up with the legal arm of Big Four accountancy firm Deloitte to launch a new pro bono advice platform.
Free Legal Answers, a website created by LawWorks and supported by Deloitte Legal, will connect volunteer lawyers with members of the public who cannot afford legal advice but do not qualify for legal aid.
Using the virtual service, individuals can ask a specific question about their legal issue, which volunteer lawyers can then preview and respond to at any time and from any location. They can also contact the person asking the question if further information is needed.
The online platform, which is already established in the US, is still being piloted across England and Wales. According to LawWorks, 90 lawyers have signed-up already, and the charity is calling for more lawyers to volunteer, particularly those with experience in housing, family and employment law.
The website aims to offer initial legal advice to individuals unable to physically attend existing pro bono centres, for example due to mobility issues, health issues or COVID-19 restrictions.
The initiative also comes in response to the growing gaps in legal aid funding. Since the 2012 Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO), drastic cut-backs have seen ‘legal aid deserts’ emerge across the country where members of the public that can’t afford access to legal advice are forced to represent themselves.
Martin Barnes, CEO of LawWorks, said:
“Pro bono is not and should not be seen as an alternative to legal aid, but it can help enable people to access the timely advice they need and which they cannot afford to pay for. We are excited about the potential for Free Legal Answers to provide new pro bono opportunities for lawyers willing to give their time and expertise for free.”
Deloitte Legal isn’t the first Big Four member to offer pro bono services. As previously reported by Legal Cheek, PwC lawyers partnered with King’s College London (KCL) to provide free weekly sessions to help members of the public and small businesses.