DWS sets up free legal advice centre in East End of London

Denton Wilde Sapte’s (DWS) lawyers have helped to launch and run a new legal clinic in East London that will provide free advice to local residents.

The clinic, called PopLaw, offers free initial legal advice on all areas of law, excluding family and immigration, every Tuesday between 6.15pm and 8.15pm.

The clinic opened its doors last month (31 January) and operates as a walk-in service. It is based at the Idea Store Chrisp Street, a new community centre opened in July 2005.

PopLaw is a joint initiative between the registered social landlord Poplar HARCA, the East London Business Alliance (ELBA) and the Solicitors Pro Bono Group (SPBG).

Poplar HARCA identified the need for its tenants to access free legal advice and approached the ELBA for advice. The ELBA and the SPBG began discussions and the result was PopLaw.

ELBA chief executive Liam Kane said: “SPBG does wonderful work all over London but had never been to Poplar. We invited them down to the East End and they liked what they saw. This new service, which we expect to be very well used, is the result. Our thanks go to DWS for its commitment to the project.”

As well as being the SPBG’s first project in Poplar, PopLaw is also the organisation’s 50th legal advice clinic, and PopLaw will be hosting a special event to mark the occasion at the end of February.

Law students from East London-based Queen Mary University have also become involved in the new project. They will act as the first point of contact with clients and gather basic information on the clients’ queries.

The project is one of the first since DWS established a new committee to review its pro bono policy. One of the early outcomes of the review led the firm to become a member of the SPBG.

Three lawyers sit on the committee, including barrister Rob Williams. He told The Lawyer: “This has been an exciting project for us because the firm has been able to take ownership of it from the start.”

DWS chief executive Howard Morris added: “We’re delighted to get involved with PopLaw, and staff from trainees to senior partners have eagerly volunteered their services. This demonstrates the real enthusiasm for pro bono work at DWS, and equally our commitment to give something back where we can.”