New guidance for solicitors on how to help the public understand and protect their rights has today been published by the Law Society of England and Wales (PDF 647kb).
Law Society president Jonathan Smithers said:
'Solicitors provide public legal education to the community to help people understand their rights and how the legal system works. Public legal education aims to give people the confidence and skills to assert and protect their rights, to recognise when they need legal support and to know where to get it. Public legal education can also equip people to get involved in shaping decisions that affect them both at a local and national level.
'With significant increases in court fees, reductions in eligibility for legal aid and now the likely introduction of online courts, a two-tier justice system is in danger of becoming entrenched as the gap between those who can and cannot afford legal advice widens. In this economic and social climate, public legal education may be expected to take on new dimensions. Legal volunteering, including pro bono and the provision of public legal education, must never be viewed as a substitute for a properly funded legal system. Every one of us must have equal access to legal advice and representation should we need it, irrespective of wealth and circumstances.
'Solicitors provide a huge amount of important free legal advice to individuals, charities and community groups throughout England and Wales and public legal education in the community is a key component.'
The Law Society’s public legal education guidance is for solicitors' firms of all sizes, from high street practices to big city firms. It outlines the range of ways in which firms can provide public legal education, from leaflets to local campaigns or workshops in schools, in prisons, and in youth or community groups. The guidance also makes the business case for providing public legal education and suggests firms approach the provision of this pro bono service strategically, consulting their community so that they are confident that they are meeting local needs.
Notes to editors
The Law Society is a major funder of the Citizenship Foundation, who provide public legal education.
We support the work our members engage in through the foundation's 'Lawyers in Schools' programme, which connects lawyers with local schools who are seeking legal education for their students. It is a unique skills-based employee volunteering opportunity designed to increase young people’s awareness and understanding of the law.
The public legal education guidance is being launched at a public legal education roundtable hosted by Irwin Mitchell in Birmingham on Friday 26 February.
About the Law Society
The Law Society is the independent professional body, established for solicitors in 1825, that works globally to support and represent its members, promoting the highest professional standards and the rule of law.
Press contact: Harriet Beaumont on 0207 320 5764