Instant Law, a new law firm based in Oxford, is inviting members of the public to take part in the trial of a new service to be launched in 2012. In exchange for a bit of your time – maybe an hour or so from home or work, at a time to suit you – they are offering a free session with an experienced and qualified lawyer.
The research will feed into a project to (in their words) create ‘a professional legal advice service that is accessible to everyone and not just the well-off’. Instant Law is planning to launch the first video-conferencing kiosk situated in a shopping centre providing immediate access to a solicitor this month. The pilot will take place at Queensgate Shopping Centre in Peterborough, with two others set to go live this month as precursor to a network of 120 kiosks in shopping centres around the country by the end of 2012.
You can read more on the Legal Futures web site here. The service will also be available to home users from next month through a Skype-type system. For a fixed fee of £29.99, users get a consultation with a solicitor from a large firm. The service covers a wide range of practice areas, such as family law, employment, contract disputes, personal injury and immigration. It will be available from 9am to 8pm, Monday to Saturday (also Sunday for home users), and users will be able to instruct the firm if further work is required, with a percentage of the fee going to Instant Law.
According to Instant Law’s business development manager Emma Drew with the ‘destruction of legal aid, access to the law has been become even more limited than it already was’. ‘Now legal services are being deregulated – which could be good news for the consumer or just another excuse for large corporates to monopolise the market,’ he says. Higgins hopes the new service will enable consumers to have an affordable alternative to traditional law firm services.
So if you want some free legal advice this month (December 2011)– for example, if you have a dispute with your boss; a problem with your landlord; or don’t know where to start with writing a will, contact Emma at email@example.com. They are looking for 30 volunteers. In exchange for your free advice session, you will be asked for a bit of constructive criticism about the service you receive. All correspondence will be treated as confidential.
Jon is editor of the Justice Gap. He is a freelance journalist. Jon's books include The First Miscarriage of Justice (Waterside Press, 2014), The Justice Gap (LAG, 2009) and People Power (Daily Telegraph/LawPack, 2008). Jon is a journalism lecturer at Winchester University and a visiting senior fellow in access to justice at the University of Lincoln. He is twice winner of the Bar Council's journalism award (2015 and 2005) and is shortlisted for this year's Criminal Justice Alliance's journalism award