Legal advice is needed.

It is easily said and harder to do. When a situation is overwhelming terms like “self help” and “empowerment” can be suffocating.
Expert legal advice must always be available.

This week (1st – 5th November) is pro bono week and South West London Law Centres have been associated with pro bono clinics for 44 years! The Pro Bono Week organisers describe pro bono as: “volunteer lawyers provide legal advice or representation free of charge to those unable to afford it.”

It is amazing that for the past 44 years lawyers have voluntarily provided legal advice to people across south west London. Expert legal advice is precious. You can read here what a difference our pro bono clinics make.
Thank you to everyone who has been involved for the past decades.

There are many legal bodies utilising the pro bono model of legal advice.
Advocate a charity that finds free legal assistance from volunteer barristers celebrated 25 years of their pro bono services this year. In an interview released by Advocate this week Mrs Justice Maura McGowan tell us “people need to be able to enforce their rights to protect their rights and to that end need the assistance of the legal profession.”

Mrs Justice Maura McGowan DBE talks to barrister Sabina Khan about the many
advantages (including biscuits) gained by doing pro bono work. Video courtsey of Advocate.

Advocate hope is that in the future they will no longer be needed as everyone will have representation and not pro bono assistance.

We need people to access representation

Another strand of the South West London Law Centres is free advice and representation as part of the Duty Advice Scheme. The Duty Advice Scheme is separate to pro bono work and is delivered by our housing case workers in county courts across south west London. The Duty Advice Scheme was born out of the 290th recommendation of Lord Woolf’s 1996 final report on “Access to Justice.

We know that the number of housing cases being sent to court by a lender or landlord are increasing but the numbers of tenants or homeowners coming to court has decreased. This week I met with Katy Forkah (our Head of Legal Service and Housing Solicitor) to discuss why people at risk of loosing their homes are not attending court to access a hearing, free representation or advice from South West London Law Centres.

It is really important that people attend court if they have a hearing and we will be there to help.
Ask for the housing court duty advisor on the day of your hearing.

Over the Summer of 2021 the Bureau of Investigative Journalism investigated possession hearings and scrutinised 555 of these hearings. The bureau found in nearly 60% of hearings neither the tenant nor their lawyer was in attendance – so no one was there to argue against the eviction.

Without hearing from the tenants and homeowners why they have not attended court, all we are able to do is to try and reach those at risk of loosing their home. At the moment I am worried about attending public buildings and wouldn’t want to attend court without being reassured it is safe and that there is someone I can trust to help me.
Are you someone who didn’t want to attend court? Please let me know why so we can work together to encourage others to access the help that is available to them at the court.

Would help us get the word out so we can reach those at risk of loosing their homes and encourage them to attend court on the day of their hearing and ask for the duty advisor. Help by sharing the below image.
You can read more about the Duty Advice Scheme sessions here.