Pro Bono Lawyers Appeal For Support To Save Vital Service
Lawyers at Irwin Mitchell who offer their time and advice for free to those who cannot afford legal advice are fighting to save Sussex Legal Service (SLS) which is facing closure due to funding cuts.
The severe cuts mean that SLS, which offers free legal advice to residents of Chichester and the local community thanks to pro bono work undertaken by staff from Irwin Mitchell and seven other local law firms, will be forced to close in December.
Part of the service SLS offers is a free Tuesday night Law Clinic, run by 22 lawyers from seven firms, who now help over 400 people each year by offering legal advice either face-to-face or over the phone.
The experts have helped members of the community on a variety of legal issues including the homeless, those facing eviction and emergency advice to vulnerable people going through the court system.
One example of the vital service SLS offers is an elderly gentleman, who cannot be named, who could not read or write and was fighting for access to his son.
The Judge strongly recommended he had legal advice and SLS helped him successfully apply for the pro bono support of a barrister to help him through proceedings.
SLS’s legal experts continued to support him throughout proceedings over the next 18 months and as a result he got the representation he needed and is now able to see his son more regularly.
Whilst the service is run by volunteers who’ve given up their time for free over the last five years, it relies on generous donations, financial support of the community, and funding through the London Legal Support Trust.
As part of their commitment to making justice accessible to all through their pro bono work, Irwin Mitchell’s Chichester office has provided funding to help save the service.
With the help of the Chichester and District Law Society the team is also working collaboratively with other law firms and organisations to ensure local residents can still benefit from the free service.
Contentious Trust and Probate specialist, Margaret Windram, who is an Associate solicitor at Irwin Mitchell, which merged with Thomas Eggar in 2015, and Vice President of the Chichester and District Law Society, is leading the campaign to save the service.
We believe that we can use our legal expertise to ‘give something back’ to our local communities and Irwin Mitchell is determined to ensure that access to legal advice is truly available to all.
Sadly like many organisations SLS is facing closure due to cuts which means some of the people who need free legal advice the most, will lose access to it. It is crucial the Chichester and Sussex communities rally together to save the service.
Margaret Windram - Senior Associate