Manchester Free Legal Help

  • 10/02/2016

Manchester Free Legal Help Centre is a project originally funded by Manchester Legal Services. The Centre is run by The University of Manchester School of Law and works in liaison with the University’s Legal Advice Centre. It is also a clinic of and supported by LawWorks.

The Centre aims to improve access to justice for the most vulnerable in society. It provides assistance to disadvantaged and vulnerable members of the community who need legal advice and support but are unable to afford it, or are not eligible for Legal Aid. We do this by coordinating face to face or telephone appointments for our clients with our volunteer solicitors and barristers who provide free legal advice and when possible free representation. We aim to enable clients to be proactive rather than reactive and encourage them to take legal advice if appropriate and discourage vexatious action. Although we should not be seen as a substitute for legal aid, we aim to fill the gap created by public funding cuts. Our purpose is to support and, ultimately, reduce the number of Litigants In Person (LIP).

We are located within the Manchester Civil Justice thus making the service easily accessible to Litigants in Person. Our service offers free legal advice in various areas of law such as family, employment, debt, welfare, consumer, wills and probate, civil litigation, immigration and judicial review. We have created a rota of ad hoc advice appointments by local lawyers to make specialist advice appointments/representation accessible for LIP. We also operate two separate drop in clinics in the area of family and immigration law.

In May 2015 we started the immigration drop in clinic every first Friday of the month. Due to increased demand the immigration clinic now runs every other Friday. In June 2015 we also established the family drop in clinic that runs every Monday. Both clinics are highly in demand.

Having only opened our doors to clients in January 2015, that same year we received a total of 730 client referrals. Of that number, 585 received free advice from a volunteer solicitor through a face to face or a telephone appointment, a student led appointment or through the drop in clinics, including representation at court hearing when possible. 93.2% of the Clients who provided us with feedback found the advice provided clear and easy to understand, would use Manchester Free Legal Help again and would recommend the service to someone else.

The Centre needs volunteer solicitors and barristers to assist in providing free legal advice. With the help of volunteers we are confident that the Centre will assist some of the most vulnerable members of the community to access much needed legal advice and support, in the fewest steps necessary, thus saving resources and time. Volunteers can help in the following ways:

– Provide brief advice to clients by email or telephone. All communication is done through the Centre and the lawyer’s details will not be given to the client, unless the lawyer authorises us to do so

– Provide advice with a face-to-face advice appointment with a client at the Court

– Provide representation in the most urgent and desperate of cases

For firms, involvement with the Centre is a fantastic addition to their corporate social responsibility agenda, which in turn bolsters its reputation amongst potential new clients and employees. For trainees and junior lawyers, the service offers a unique opportunity to access hands on experience interacting with clients in wide ranging areas of law.

If you would like to volunteer or would like further information please contact:
Niki Polymeridou
Project Coordinator
Manchester Free Legal Help
Room L02.12
Manchester Civil Justice Centre
1 Bridge Street West
M60 9DJ
Tel: 0161 240 5034