A new kind of legal services provision has been set up in west London by a young solicitor formerly with high profile legal aid firm Bindman & Partners.
Called Law for All, the organisation runs the Acton Law Shop – a hybrid of a small legal aid firm and law centre. It has charitable status, and donors include City firm Clifford Chance, which has promised u6,000.
It also generates income from involvement in courses at Thames Valley University, as well as its own fee-earning legal aid work.
The law shop has consultancy and staff training support from Bindmans. It is developing strong two-way referral links with other law firms in the Ealing area.
Anna Barlow, the enterprising 26-year old solicitor who dreamt up the idea, is now running it full-time with a team of staff.
“We don't want to replace law centres. We are trying to establish a model for legal services provision in areas where law centres don't exist, or unfortunately have had to close,” says Barlow.
The decision not to become a law centre was in part to avoid the law centres' fears over funding.
The law shop is also a model for the Labour Party's vision for improving access to justice, says Paul Boateng MP, Labour legal spokesman who opened the shop.
Staff include one other solicitor, three administrators, and a highly qualified management director – Barlow's mother Ulla, who was previously a director of education at Ealing local authority.
Law Centres Federation (LCF) chair Isabel Manley says Law for All is “plugging a gap” in provision and says there would only be concern if it competed with law centres for funding.
Law for All conforms with Law Society employed solicitor rules.
Volunteers include jobless law trainees, and barrister Peter Miller from Anthony Scrivener QC's chambers. Miller will provide tribunal advocacy.
Trustees include Makbool Javaid, chair of the Society of Black Lawyers, and barrister Alastair Hudson, a part-time assistant to Boateng.