Free legal advice is sometimes provided by solicitors and barristers and is commonly referred to as “pro-bono” work.
In a recent article in the Law Society Gazette, a leading barrister raised the issue of increased pressure on the legal profession to provide more affordable and potentially free legal advice. As legal aid has been cut in a number of areas, pressure is on the legal profession itself to fill the gap by providing free legal advice to those who cannot afford to pay for it.
There is even a call for providing free legal advice to be compulsory on solicitors.
It has been suggested that free legal advice could form part of training for lawyers. For example, it could be compulsory for trainees to provide a number of free hours as part of their training. This already happens in other jurisdictions such as New York and Singapore.
Free Legal Advice – The Future
It seems unlikely that solicitors could be compelled to provide free legal advice. How can anyone be forced to work for free?
Even if it were introduced, it would be very difficult to monitor and enforce. What if one firm of solicitors was flooded with work it could not charge with and another was not? It would not be a very fair system.
It is more likely that firms will be encouraged to provide it by giving some form or reward or accreditation.
But What Does This Mean?
The lack of help for individuals and businesses with legal advice is a growing problem, given the recent changes by the government. In particular, the reduction in the availability of legal aid has hit family lawyers and their clients. More and more people will be forced to deal with legal affairs and attend court without a qualified legal advisor, simply because they cannot afford representation.
That could mean the court system becoming more congested with claims brought by people who do not know what they are doing and making the workloads of Judges all the more difficult.