Every year Shelter helps millions of people struggling with bad housing or homelessness through advice, support and legal services. Since 2017, Shelter has been providing free, specialist debt advice to help to guide debt advisers through complex and challenging debt cases. The team of 8 specialist debt advisors are spread across, s Manchester, London and Sheffield, and headed up by Operations Manager Ryan Hayes.
Their core role is to provide phone and online advice. They also hold responsibility to produce resources to help the voluntary advise sector such as a monthly specialist debt updates covering case law, industry news, success stories, as well as quarterly webinars for debt clients which are free to attend and get recorded and distributed more widely to debt clients across England and Wales.
When the team was set up originally, it had no rigid process for selecting suppliers.
“The Specialist Debt Advice Service was new to Shelter, so the initial challenge was to determine what resources were required to deliver the advice and build a reputation as experts.” said Hayes.
They decided to go about it in a pragmatic way, by having a general discussion with the team and asking a simple question: what resources do you need to run the service?
Shelter at that time didn’t have a great deal
of experience in second-tier debt advice, so they took the lead from the more experienced people who had already been doing that role with previous organisations. “I was aware that LexisNexis offered really useful resources for debt advice,” explains Luke Oliver, Specialist Debt Adviser, “and so we really encouraged the team managers to subscribe to the service. It was a really useful resource as it adds something that first tier debt advisors don’t generally have access to.”
The team knew they needed access to specialist publications which had to be accessed by team members in three different locations. The solution needed to be robust, comprehensive and online. Ultimately what made the difference was the depth and breadth of content that LexisNexis offered.
“LexisLibrary and LexisPSL gives us access to a number of publications which aren’t available through other providers. For example, Goode on consumer credit. That’s vital because the courts tend to regard Goode as the key authority if you’re reading judgements in most consumer credit matters. Being split between three sites, it’s also important that everybody can access resources online. Pretty much everything we need is available through LexisNexis.”
Shelter decided to subscribe to key modules of LexisLibrary and LexisPSL, including Litigation, Banking, Local Government, Public Law and Property Disputes. “We need to be able to advise people who have personal debts across the board. That might be through local council, banking, or property disputes. It might be that people have been taken to courts, so we need to cover multiple legal areas,” explains Hayes. And Luke Oliver:
“LexisLibrary is essential for our primary legislation research. It’s a real advantage to be able to rely on proven, up to date content. Too often a lot of our service users only have access to what’s publicly available which tends to be out of date, particularly when it comes to statutory instruments. Using LexisLibrary brings a confidence that gives us a real edge.”
“We rely on LexisNexis to give us a definitive answer, quickly and reliable every time so that we can be confident in the advice we use to help our clients.”
But it’s not all about the depth of content on offer. The team uses LexisPSL on a daily basis to guide them through the various calls on their expertise and help them develop the right answers. Where legal documents and process can be complex and difficult to share with clients. The team relies on LexisPSL practice notes and their annotations for critical guidance helping service users and confidently navigate through complex legal matters. This is especially true for civil procedure rules, case law and legislation
“PSL is really useful,” says Luke Oliver, “particularly for Dispute Resolution and Restructuring & Insolvency. It’s essential to have a clear path through civil procedure which allows you to focus on what really matters.”
Getting access to the service was an easy matter. The team found that they were able to make use of it from the start and that help has always been on hand if necessary.
“Training is always helpful but it’s even more important to believe in your trainers. The person that trained originally me was very knowledgeable, and everyone I spoke to since then has been very knowledgeable. Knowing the high calibre of people behind the service is just another reason to have confidence in the service.” Hayes agrees. “Our account manager is a vital partner. She clearly understands the budgeting and operational tensions that we manage as a charity. We need to spend very wisely and only source what we actually need on a daily basis. She spent time making sure she had a clear idea of our requirements before we invested. It was a pragmatic approach which ensured we got what we needed through a sustainable investment.”
Access to the LexisNexis software ecosystem has already started to pay dividends. After just a few months into their subscription the team are really seeing the benefits of the subscription.
There’s a renewed confidence around the opportunities to get up to speed on new or unfamiliar subjects. It’s rapidly becoming the critical resource for enabling service users.
Ultimately getting to the authoritative answer faster, means faster access to quality legal advice and support for Shelter and their clients where time really is critical. “We rely on LexisNexis to give us a definitive answer, quickly and reliable every time so that we can be confident in the advice we use to help our clients.”, concludes Hayes.
“LexisNexis has proved to be so valuable we reference it throughout our eBulletin webinars. We’ve created online materials for 5,000 debt advisors nationwide and LexisNexis content is used throughout our material and our webinars.”
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