Recent changes in legal aid, increases in court and tribunal fees and the limitations of no win, no fee arrangements are making it harder for people to get access to justice and legal help. The Law Society is making a number of recommendations to try to ensure that more people can get the legal help they need.
Law Society chief executive Catherine Dixon said: “The costs of using a solicitor to resolve problems early are low and offer excellent value compared with the costs if things go wrong as a result of not being able to get the right advice at the right time. Failure to get legal advice can also cost the taxpayer if problems are not resolved. That is why it is important that against a backdrop of significant reductions in legal aid and increased court and tribunal fees, we look at what can be done to make legal services more accessible, thereby enabling affordable access to justice for everyone.
“Our recommendations build on what solicitors are already doing, such as using technology to provide accessible services. We recommend that the courts follow solicitors’ lead in using technology to operate more efficiently. The cost to the taxpayer could be reduced if there was more of an incentive for public bodies to make better decisions. This also means ensuring people get the right advice at the right time from legal experts. Solicitors are the best trained, insured and regulated professionals to provide this advice.
“Access to affordable legal help is a basic right and the government has a role in supporting changes to the system which will enable solicitors to do their job even more effectively. Our solutions would mean that more people can access legal help when they need it.”
The Law Society’s recommendations fall under these main headings:
- improving the way courts work
- solicitors working differently to continue to met clients’ need for accessible and affordable advice
- a proper, supported role for free legal advice which sign posts people to the help they need
- technology and innovation to enable access and efficiency
- the right level of funding by government for affordable justice
- incentivising public bodies to make the right decisions early to save them paying later.