In my last post on young people’s legal capability, I explored how NGOs such as PLEnet and IARS are piloting innovative Public Legal Education (“PLE”) programmes to enable individuals to take control of their own legal problems. One of the main arguments that I made for PLE is the long term pecuniary advantage to be gained from empowering (young) people to resolve their own legal problems before they reach the stage at which the state might need to step in and provide legal aid funded support. I also made the point that PLE is not a panacea that completely removes the need for legal aid. Legal aid funding is vital for access to justice for society’s most vulnerable, but the problem facing practitioners will be how to deliver more for less when taking into account the potential £350m cut in funding, proposed in the legal aid Green Paper. Innovation and co-operation by the legal sector to respond to this challenge will be key.
With part funding from the Legal Services Commission, Matrix Chambers – a barristers’ chambers well known for its innovative approach to delivering legal services, has set up a unique project called the Legal Aid Link to support the legal aid sector through this difficult time.
What is the Legal Aid Link?
The Legal Aid Link is at its core an I.T. infrastructure hub that provides an adaptable framework for legal aid professionals to manage their work. Amongst its many functions it:
- Provides tailored content on law and practice related to areas of work covered by legal aid funding;
- Acts as a case management and document sharing tool;
- Provides a space for legal aid professionals to launch and manage campaigns.
The way it is designed allows the user to construct a completely tailored application within minutes for the functions required.
How will the Legal Aid Link make a difference?
Perhaps most importantly, it is FREE for legal aid professionals to use the Legal Aid Link. By offering full use of the service at no cost to struggling legal aid firms, community law centres and legal aid campaign groups, Matrix Chambers is doing something unique to:
- Help legal aid firms and law centres to modernise, by providing free I.T. infrastructure;
- Take pressure off struggling firms by providing them with a back office I.T. solution at no cost, enabling them to focus their resources on helping clients;
- Set the bar high for the big City chambers and firms wishing to make a difference to society through their corporate social responsibility programmes.
James O’Connell, Chief Executive of the Institute of Paralegals said:
We are delighted to be working with Matrix on the Legal Aid Link project. LAL gives legal aid practitioners free access to online services and facilities that normally have to be purchased at considerable cost.
What impact will this project have?
At this early stage in the project’s life it is difficult to estimate what the ultimate impact will be on the frontline. But, what it has already achieved is to demonstrate how lawyers can co-operate to find innovative and strategic solutions to enable society’s most vulnerable people to get vital legal support. Carol Storer, Director of Legal Aid Practitioners Group said:
The legal aid sector is under great pressure, and so the LAPG welcomes any initiative that provides tangible support to legal aid practitioners.
For more information on the Legal Aid Link