What the hell is free legal advice ? Can someone really get free legal advice considering that it is a professional service ? The answer is yes. If you have been to Law centres like Citizens Advice Bureau or visited pro bono services run by most schools like University of Law, you would realise that they do not charge for their legal advice. Most free legal advice services are run on voluntary basis. If you check online, most Law Centres usually advertise for volunteers. Considering the fact that they do not charge their clients for their services, the only way they can minimize cost is by hiring voluntary workers who want to render their services to the public free.
Surprisingly, because we live in a capitalist world, some people still ask why anyone would like to work for free. The straight answer should be that they are rendering services to humanity and that everyone must not have capitalist mentality. It reminds me of a lady I met when I was looking for a Law firm where I would do part B portfolio of my police Station accreditation (FYI it is a training anyone who intends to advice detainees in Police stations must pass). As the deadline remained only some few months, I started offering to do it free without pay to enable me complete the Portfolio. The young lady told me never to work for anyone for free. I asked her whether she did not know that volunteering to work without pay could open way for someone to get a job. She agreed but defended her position by saying that she would feel used and stupid if after working without pay and ended up being asked to leave without offer of employment. the reason why I mentioned it is that anyone irrespective of his or her profession who decided to offer free service must be appreciated because it is not an easy decision to make.
Getting back to track on why people and Law Centres chose to be giving free legal advice without charge to people who use their services. It must be mentioned that most law centres like CAB are charity reliant with funding from a lot of sources. It is not everyone that works in law centres that are volunteers. There are full time staff who coordinate the free legal services rendered by these centres. The work they do are immense and must be encouraged. However, there has been a drop in the funding of most of all the law centres. I am not going to go deep into why their funding dropped.
Volunteers who give free legal advice actually do it for different reasons. It is a win win situation for both volunteers and the people who obtain advice from them. Take for instance Law students who participate in The University of Law pro bono program, while they give advise to people, they also acquire experience which would be of a great advantage when they finish their university studies. It is almost impossible these days for employers to consider job applicants without experience for interview. Students can always use the experience they gained in pro bono service as job experience if they are looking for job or training contract. The same thing applies to law centres. Most people use law centres to gain work experience. People who use law centres for job experience and reference tend to have competitive advantage when they are looking for work. You do not need to be a law student to become a volunteer in Law centres. They usually offer training before they can allow their volunteers to see clients alone. But the difference is that law centres advice on wider areas like debt matters and benefit claims. But generally, the free legal advice you get from school pro bonos and law centres are on Employment law, Immigration law, Civil litigation, Criminal litigation, Personal injury, family law including divorce and child arrangement and housing matters including rent arrears, possession, eviction and impending homelessness, etc.
While school pro bono services comprises of mostly law students, law centres attracts volunteers from diverse sections of professions. Most law centres also have in-house solicitors. . It opens up a lot of opportunities in most volunteer careers. But another question is why do solicitors also go to law centres ?
Most solicitors goes to law centres to offer free advice hoping that people who want to progress their matter further would consider to user their services. Unless it is a very trivial matter, it is always difficult for just a visit to law centres to resolve legal problems of some people. Many people actually go there because they do not know how to go about handling their legal problems. Most solicitors that go to the law centres usually sign up new clients to progress their matter for them. The same thing is applicable to our website . Most of our volunteers are solicitors. While clients benefit from free legal advice, the legal professionals also benefit from likely patronage from clients who may want them to progress their matter further if it cannot be resolved with ordinary online legal advice. But it does not in no way override the humanitarian spirit of all these legal professionals who volunteer to offer free legal advice to people. It must be noted that it is never guaranteed that these volunteers must get a client from doing voluntary work on our site. They devote their time to help people and we so much appreciate it.
The government must also be commended in their effort to make access to free legal advice available to people. Most County Councils like Kent County Council have a dedicated website to help people who are looking for access to free legal advice. It must be noted that without services like free legal advice provided by these mediums, a lot of people would find it very difficult to afford the cost of going to solicitors. It means that most unemployed people who have genuine cases might find themselves in disadvantageous positions thereby failing to obtain justice to cases of merit.
In conclusion, free legal advice benefits the receivers most. While the volunteers are remunerated in many other ways, they can always do without the remunerations. So their commitment to offer their professional knowledge at no cost must be commended.