Essex Law Clinic: Free Legal Answers referral agency

Post by Lee Hansen, Deputy Clinic Director and Fanny Joly, Clinic Administrator.

The Essex Law Clinic is becoming a referral agency for Free Legal Answers a service provided by LawWorks. It’s a website for individuals, who cannot afford to pay for legal advice, to request initial and one-off advice about a specific civil legal issue. At this stage, it’s a pilot limited to initial or one-off advice on the following areas of law:

Consumer rights

  • Debt
  • Employment and work
  • Family/divorce/custody
  • Housing and property.

Fanny, our clinic administrator, will ensure a triage based on the following criteria:

  • Their household/family has an income of less than £26,000 and cannot afford to pay for legal advice;
  • The legal problem is not related to a criminal law issue;
  • They are over 16;
  • They live in England or Wales.

She will also check whether someone may be eligible for legal aid. Then, when clients are referred to the platform, they can access it thanks to their personal email address, a password and a username provided by the Clinic. Once registered, a client can ask up to four legal questions per year.

About 170 solicitors have volunteered to give pro bono legal advice on this referral platform. They are all authorised to practice and are subject to professional standards and codes of practice – this includes respecting client confidentiality and avoiding conflicts of interest. They can first review and choose which, if any, questions they wish to answer.

Unfortunately, LawWorks cannot guarantee that a legal question or problem will be responded to. The system is not able to help with more complex legal matters – e.g., which may require the drafting and sending of letters, preparing for a tribunal or court, or providing legal representation at a court or tribunal hearing. But this service may provide a much-needed source of advice for debt cases that we do not cover, or in other areas of law when the Clinic is unable to assist.

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