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A stitch in time saves nine: support our early advice campaign

28 November 2018

Everyone knows that if you catch a problem early, you're more likely to stop it getting worse. The same is true for legal problems - most of the time, these are easier, and cheaper, to address early on.

For example, in housing law legal aid for early advice is not available for disrepair issues until an issue has become so serious it impacts a resident's health.

And in family law, early advice is no longer available for family breakdown and child custody. This has meant that family disputes - such as those regarding child custody - can end up going to court unnecessarily.

Since the end of  2017, the Law Society has been campaigning for the government to bring back legal aid for early advice.

Early advice story

Lucy and her daughter live in a flat. One day, Lucy notices mould on the wall of her daughter's bedroom. She tells her landlord, but he refuses to fix it.

Lucy remains concerned, and calls a legal advice line. However, she is told that her problem isn't serious enough for her to receive legal aid for early legal advice.

Time passes, and the mould gets worse. Lucy's daughter develops asthma as a result, and is rushed to hospital with an asthma attack.

If Lucy had received early legal advice, this problem could have been addressed before it got worse. Without early advice, this has resulted in a personal cost to Lucy and her daughter, and to the NHS.

The evidence for early advice is clear

Evidence shows that there is a clear statistical link between receiving professional legal advice early and resolving a problem sooner. Research from Ipsos MORI, commissioned by the Law Society, using data from the Legal Needs Survey, found:

  • On average, 1 in 4 people who received early professional legal advice had resolved their problem within 3-4 months. For those who did not receive early legal advice, it was not until 9 months after the issue had first occurred that a quarter had resolved their issue
  • At any given time between an issue first occurring and the problem being resolved, people who did not receive early advice were 20% less likely than average to have had their issue resolved.

All of these reasons are why we've been calling on the government to bring back legal aid for early advice. We've received backing from a number of high-profile MPs across all parties, including former Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith MP and Labour MP David Lammy. It has also received the backing of the Labour frontbench, with Shadow Lord Chancellor Richard Burgon MP committing to bring back legal aid for early advice in family and housing law. Many members of the Justice Select Committee have also thrown their weight behind the campaign including the chair Bob Neill.

We need your help now

As the government considers its next steps following its review of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO), we are calling for as many of our members as possible to help us make some noise and show support for our campaign. We believe the government now has a great opportunity to re-introduce legal aid for early advice, and your support can help make this a reality.

Use our online tool to write to the Lord Chancellor. It automatically generates a letter for you and only takes a moment to send.

It has been great to see so many of our members show support for our campaign over the past year – over 500 of you have written to your local MP about the campaign, over 200 took part in a social media Thunderclap, and countless numbers of you had photos with our campaign sign – including all attendees of the Presidents and Secretaries conference.

As the government develops its conclusions to the LASPO review we're reliant on your support. By working together we can improve access to justice and bring back legal aid for early advice.

Use our online tool to write to the Lord Chancellor.

Read about our current campaigns for:

Access to justice

We are campaigning to improve access to justice for all, regardless of social background or wealth.

Criminal duty solicitors: a looming crisis

The Law Society has published data which shows a looming crisis in the numbers of criminal duty solicitors. This could leave many individuals unable to access their right to a solicitor and free advice.

Early Advice

Early legal advice can stop a problem from escalating. Back our campaign to bring back legal aid for early advice

England and Wales: Global legal centre

We are promoting the benefits of England and Wales as the leading global centre for legal services.

Legal aid deserts

Provision of legal aid advice for housing is disappearing in large areas of England and Wales, creating 'legal aid deserts'.

Legal aid means test

Research from the University of Loughborough, commissioned by the Law Society, has found that the legal aid means test is preventing families in poverty from accessing justice.

Explore our pro bono and international projects

Sign up to our Pro Bono Charter. It is a Statement of Commitment that firms, ABS and in-house teams are invited to sign up to. It is a great opportunity to highlight your law firm or organisation's pro bono work

Tags: Law Society | equality | justice | access to justice

About the author

Vicki Butler is campaigns manager at the Law Society. She manages the Law Society's campaigns on access to justice and promoting England and Wales as the leading global centre for legal services.

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