Anger as RCJ funding for litigants in person shelved

The Royal Courts of Justice Citizens Advice Bureau (RCJCAB), where thousands of City lawyers offer pro bono advice to litigants in person, is facing closure

A protracted funding battle between senior litigation partners from most of the magic circle and other top firms and the Association of London Governments (ALG) has been lost by the partners.

The ALG has withdrawn its £58,000-a-year funding for the RCJCAB after months of protest from firms such as Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Linklaters and Lovells.

While lawyers from these and other firms provided free legal advice worth nearly £2m to litigants last year, the ALG has withdrawn the tiny grant needed to keep the service going following a strategy change.

The ALG, which is funded by Londoners’ council tax, will provide over £3m in grants for the provision of free legal services this year, but will focus its resources on Outer London boroughs.

“We’ve shown that people come from all over London, and indeed the country, to use the RCJCAB,” said Lovells pro bono partner and head of corporate and financial litigation Graham Huntley.

When asked if the law firms involved in the RCJCAB could find £58,000 between them to keep the service going, Huntley was of the opinion that this would be inappropriate.

“This is a community service and should be publicly funded,” he replied. “We’re not banks, we’re law firms. Our main resource is our lawyers’ time.”

The RCJCAB has long been the bedrock of pro bono activity for City lawyers.

Lawyers from the UK’s best firms volunteer at the RCJCAB to help litigants in person, which include battered wives, bankrupts and the homeless, and cases such as mortgage repossesions and other debt problems.