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By Tom Laidlaw
I was at the Attorney General’s Student Pro Bono Awards last week celebrating all of the innovative and useful work that law students and law schools were engaging in to support access to justice and their local communities through pro bono activities.
It is also interesting to be in the room for an Awards ceremony hosted by a Conservative Attorney General. Dominic Grieve QC, MP clearly values and appreciates all of the work that gets done in this way, acknowledges that it should not replace government support for people to access legal services but also has to toe the government line that everyone has to take a fair share of the cuts in government expenditure.
A number of the shortlisted projects are in place to try and mitigate the impact of these cuts in legal services, such as the winner of the Best New Student Pro Bono Activity – the Community Legal Helpdesk at the University of Exeter. That service is based at Exeter County Court, runs three mornings a week and its function is “… to inform, guide and to triage legal advice. The main work of the Helpdesk is therefore to offer assistance with the completion of forms; explain court procedures; to act as ‘Mckenzie Friends’ or assist with court hearings and to signpost other forms of legal advice and help as necessary”.
The probable rise of litigants in person is clearly now worrying many people at the sharp-end of delivering legal services. As you may be aware, Sir Alan Ward made his feelings plain in the opening paragraphs of his recent judgment in Wright v Michael Wright Supp
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