Why Law Centres?
Getting legal advice should not be difficult. There are plenty of private solicitors firms in Coventry. There are also several advice agencies that can offer general advice on lots of issues and some more specialist advice. However, for many people these choices are not real. Solicitors can be expensive and getting specialist advice at more general advice agencies is not always easy.
Law Centres exist to bridge this gap. We have the skills and experience that all Solicitors hold, combined with a commitment to challenging poverty and supporting communities that the not for profit sector specialises in. We provide a comprehensive legal service in areas of social welfare law that private Solicitors seldom address and use that knowledge and experience to make the law accessible. We also seek to influence policy making through taking test cases and lobbying. Law Centres seek to develop innovative ways of making law and justice accessible.
Our clients are unlikely to be able to pay for advice and representation. Legal Aid Agency (LAA) funding - what used to be called Legal Aid - does not cover representation at most tribunals that we represent at and many private Solicitors and the Law Society do not feel that the payments they receive under civil legal aid funding properly reflect the cost of providing the service. Accordingly our client group can find it both difficult and expensive to access the law.
With the support of civil legal aid funding, grants from Coventry City Council, and other fundraising, the Law Centre is able to provide specialist legal advice and representation without depending upon the individual's ability to pay. Clients can come to us knowing that they are receiving a quality assured service without having to worry about how they will pay.
Law Centres are central to the notion of a Civil Legal Aid. From early origins in urban centres in the 1970s, the number of Law Centres has expanded to over 50.
Publicly provided free legal advice should be available to everyone, not just to those with financial resources or to those few who can get publicly funded legal advice because of their income. There are many areas of law where legal aid is simply not available and this means that even in areas where fundamental rights are in dispute there is no access to the legal system. Law Centres, however, are about more than providing accessible legal advice to people who cannot afford to pay. The aim of our work is to use the law imaginatively to combat inequality, discrimination and the causes and effects of poverty, and to ensure that any attempt to use the law to perpetuate or foster these is challenged.