State-funding should be reinstated for early-stage legal advice, says Law Society

13 December, 2017

Following the publication of a new report, the Law Society has called for state-funding for early-stage legal advice to be reinstated.

The calls come amid concerns that such reforms could enable legal services consumers to resolve matters and disputes “sooner” – which the Society claims would save a lot of money for the public purse.

“Without early advice, relatively minor legal problems can escalate, creating health, social and financial problems, placing additional pressure and costs on already stretched public services,” a Law Society spokesperson has said.

Previously, a large proportion of funding for state-funded legal advice, known as legal aid, was removed when the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO) came into force in 2012.

But new research carried out by IPSOS Mori has since suggested that people who do not receive early-stage advice are 20 per cent less likely to have their issue resolved.

Meanwhile, the research reveals that one in four cases which do involve ‘early-stage’ legal advice are typically resolved within three to four months.

This is a far cry from the average of nine months for cases in which consumers fail to seek early advice.

“Anyone who can’t afford to pay for early legal advice may struggle to identify solutions– meaning simple issues spiral and can end up in court, bringing unnecessary costs to the taxpayer,” said Law Society vice president, Christina Blacklaws.

Specifically, the Society has said that it is “keen to work with the Government” to ensure legal aid is reinstated in relation to “housing and family cases.”

The calls follow concerns previously raised by Law Society President Joe Egan, who earlier this year suggested that legal aid cuts had “exacerbated legal problems” and “increased pressure on wider public services.”

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