Laura Pearce of JFH Law talks about her work with the Employment Tribunal Litigant in Person Support Scheme.
What is the name of the scheme which you participate in and what does it entail?
The Employment Tribunal Litigant in Person Support Scheme is a pro bono scheme set up by the Employment Lawyers Association (ELA) Pro Bono Committee to assist unrepresented litigants in the Employment Tribunal. It is designed for both claimants and respondents who cannot afford legal representation (although there is no means test applied). The scheme offers on the day one off advice or representation at simply hearings of one day or less and preliminary hearings.
What benefits do you think the scheme provides to those who receive the services?
Litigants in person are able to obtain free advice from a qualified lawyer about their legal rights, how to conduct the case at hearing and procedural issues. In addition, some litigants in person will be provided with free legal representation at certain hearings. Even though the tribunal hearings are less formal than the courts, it can still be a daunting experience for litigants in person.
What benefits do you get from participating in the scheme?
It enables me to give something back to the community and it helps me gain advocacy experience in the tribunal.
What do you enjoy about the scheme and what do you find challenging about the scheme?
I enjoy the advocacy, as I originally trained as a barrister, and helping people with their problems. Having to think on your feet can be challenging, as you want to do the best for the litigants in person, but you only have a limited amount of time.
What is the importance for you in doing pro bono work and why would you encourage others to get involved?
I found that the litigants in person who used the scheme were very grateful it was there and recommended that it become a permanent feature for the future. They said it was very helpful to have free legal advice/representation as they didn’t know what to do. The scheme will only be able to run if people volunteer to partake in it and given the great benefit it provides, both to litigants in person and to gaining experience at the tribunal, I would recommend it to others.