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London Legal Walk: supporting access to justice

27 April 2016

Bob Nightingale explains how London’s solicitors are helping the poorest and most vulnerable people in the region.

'We helped 27,225 people last year. We are often people's last hope for help to keep their home or their job, or to get enough money to feed their children with, and the cuts to legal aid have had a huge impact. Money from the walk helps us to make a real difference to people's lives.'

Ruth Hayes, Centre Director, Islington Law Centre

On Monday 16 May, thousands of legal professionals – solicitors, barristers, chartered legal executives (CILEx lawyers) and many others, along with friends and colleagues, will walk 10km around Central London to raise funds for free legal advice centres in and around London.

The annual London Legal Walk, organised by the London Legal Support Trust, started in 2005 with 330 walkers led by the Master of the Rolls, Lord Phillips and the president of the Law Society, Kevin Martin. It raised £37,000 to provide extra funding for advice centres.

The walk has grown every year since then so that last year, 9,000 walkers raised £700,000 and this year promises to be bigger and better.

Of course the need has grown enormously over those years as well. The poor have become more numerous and poorer. Support for vulnerable people has been reduced. The need for the intervention of a specialist solicitor or caseworker has grown and of course the resources to provide that help have been reduced substantially.

Law Centres and advice agencies across the region have closed and most of those that remain have lost casework staff as councils have reduced funding. Legal aid cuts have taken their toll, both on the funding that agencies receive and on the support available from high street legal aid firms.

Solicitors will know that there comes a point in a serious problem where a person is unlikely to be able to cope alone. For vulnerable and disadvantaged people that point is reached quickly.

For frail elderly people, people with learning difficulties, young isolated people, refugees, people who can't see or hear or have other serious disabilities, when things go wrong, the intervention of a specialist is often vital to provide access to justice.

The funds raised by the walk can't hope to replace the lost national and local government support any more than the wonderful pro bono work undertaken by many solicitors can.

What these things do achieve is to provide access to justice for thousands of people who would have faced serious problems alone.

So it is fantastic that so many solicitors are willing to walk to raise funds for specialist legal advice agencies to remain open and providing as much help as possible.

Most walkers attend in teams from their firms, chambers, courts, in-house teams and law schools and it is very easy to register a team.

  • There is no registration fee
  • There is no minimum sponsorship requirement
  • There is no minimum or maximum number of walkers

All that is asked is that someone registers the team and then recruits as many walkers as possible to add to the team list.

The team organiser is provided with a fundraising web page at Virgin Money Giving and sponsorship forms to share with team members (we don't hassle team member directly – we only communicate with them through their organiser).

We ask walkers to raise as much sponsorship as they can (and thankfully they do!)

The 10km walk starts at any time between 16:30 and 19:00 that the team chooses on the evening of Monday 16 May. It is followed by an extremely popular street party, held outside the Law Society in Carey Street. Entertainment in previous years included stilt walkers, fire eaters, samba bands, and of course a range of street food and refreshments for the triumphant hungry and thirsty walkers when they have finished the course. The Law Society is the gold sponsor of the London Legal Walk and provides marshals along the route to direct people and hand out water, a place for walkers to rest after they have finished the route, the use of their bar, as well as several teams of dedicated walkers.

This year there are going to be more than 600 teams and 10,000 walkers. If your firm or in-house or local authority legal department isn't yet registered please do consider joining in.

'Thanks to LLST's London Legal Walk, vulnerable and disadvantaged people continue to receive quality legal advice and assistance from Law Centres. Thank you to everyone who is organising a walk team or is walking to raise funds for Law Centres.'

Julie Bishop, Director, Law Centres Network

Find out more about the London Legal Support Trust

Read about the Law Society's involvement in the walk

Join in with the conversation on Twitter using #legalwalk or #WhyWeWalk

Donate to the legal walk on the Law Society's team fundraising page

If you're not based in London, there are plenty of other legal walks:

Tags: legal aid | access to justice

About the author

Bob Nightingale is the founder and head of fundraising at the London Legal Support Trust.
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