THE ACTON Law Shop, the first self-funding law centre partially supported by firms ranging from Clifford Chance to Bindman & Co, celebrates a successful first year this week.
Begun in May 1994, the Law Shop is a charity hybrid of a legal aid firm and a law centre. It employs lawyers and advice workers to provide housing and welfare-related advice (The Lawyer 4 October 1994).
On paper it pays for itself. Legal aid work contributes 76 per cent of casework, with 24 per cent provided as pro bono. It also received £40,000 in donations in the first year, with £3,000 from Clifford Chance, smaller gifts from a dozen firms and free assistance from Bindman & Partners.
With nine permanent staff compared to two at the launch, Law Shop processes 100 clients a week compared to 20 last year.
"We have achieved our three-year plan in our first year," says solicitor and Law Shop founder Anna Barlow.
Law For All, the charity which runs the Law Shop, set up a unique degree course in community law with Thames Valley University last year to combat the shortage of welfare lawyers. The first 16 students are now starting their second year, with places for 24 new students in September. The students sit in with Law Shop lawyers as part of their training.
The aim for the next 12 months is to open two satellite, part-time local law clinics and, in the medium term, to establish two more Law Shops with law clinics attached.
However, cashflow is tight and funding for expansion will hopefully come from further donations. Barlow will soon be writing to London law firms for support and providing potential funders with the Law Shop's first annual report.