A BIRMINGHAM law firm has announced what it claims to be the first ever UK on-line pro bono service.

The service by Tyndallwoods is aimed at community and environmental pressure groups who can receive advice over the Internet from its newly created Community Law Department.

The service is designed to cover planning, environmental and housing law and all aspects of the law of urban regeneration.

The initiative is being spearheaded by Phil Shiner, a specialist planning and housing lawyer who joined the firm from a Birkenhead law centre in September.

He said the firm's IT resources had allowed him to act on his long-held belief that the existing legal problems faced by many community groups could have been nipped in the bud.

“We believe it is important to provide a quality and affordable legal service to community groups. We are aiming to prevent problems occurring that will cause harm in the future to communities which are then the subject of costly litigation,” he said.

He added he would be flexible over the demarcation point between unpaid and paid work, although there were some areas of law that he wanted to test out.