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Linklaters trains its lawyers in housing law in access to justice push

Elite law firms encouraged to 'play their part in providing greater access to justice'

9 September 2015

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With the need for social welfare lawyers having never been greater, Magic Circle firm Linklaters has commissioned a legal education charity to provide a bespoke training programme in housing law for its lawyers.

Pro Bono Community (PBC) delivered the first of three programmes this summer to a cohort of volunteer solicitors at the firm, who were taught how to provide legal advice within legal clinics, given an overview of social security law focussed on housing benefits, and advised of common issues including possession and eviction, homelessness, and landlord disrepair disputes.

The training has been developed as part of the firm's involvement in the Collaborative Plan for Pro Bono in the UK, a profession-led initiative promoting access to and delivery of pro bono. Other participating firms include Clifford Chance, Simmons & Simmons, and DLA Piper .

Linklaters, which also runs an advice clinic in conjunction with the Mary Ward Legal Centre, is supporting the provision of training in housing law to a wider pool of City lawyers, including in-house counsel and lawyers from other firms who are part of the initiative to expand the availability of access to justice to vulnerable Londoners on low incomes.

The firm's global pro bono adviser, Lara Adamson, said the training had given the volunteer lawyers the confidence to advise individuals face to face on their housing law queries.

Bill Skirrow, PBC's executive director, commented: 'We hope this becomes a model for courses and schemes which we can develop for other firms who want to play their part in providing greater access to justice in the UK.'

Of course, Linklaters is not the only elite firm providing pro bono initiatives. Early in 2015, Hogan Lovells launched its 'Global Citizenship Policy', which asks everyone at the firm to devote at least 25 hours per year to citizenship activities, including pro bono legal advice.

In August, the Legal Education Foundation (TLEF), backed by Magic Circle outfit Allen & Overy, announced it was to offer seven training contracts designed to produce a new generation of specialist social justice lawyers and increase access to justice for the UK's most vulnerable.

The aim of the programme is to train a new generation of lawyers and potential future leaders of the advice sector working with vulnerable people in the areas of housing, welfare benefits, disability, immigration, domestic abuse, and child welfare.

The motives and effectiveness of pro bono initiatives provided by the world's leading firms is often the subject of much debate, especially from those practitioners who work at the coal face of the justice system and away from the bright lights of the City.

However, such debate took a somewhat predictable turn following the Lord Chancellor's suggestion that successful solicitors should do more to protect access to justice.

John van der Luit-Drummond is deputy editor for Solicitors Journal | @JvdLD

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