South West law centres set up for-profit legal advice enterprise
Cabot Law community interest company to generate funding for solicitor positions
A community initiative by three law centres aims to generate enough revenue from fee-paying clients to fund a solicitor position in each of their sites, Solicitors Journal can reveal.
Earlier this month, Avon and Bristol law centre, Wiltshire law centre, and Gloucestershire law centre secured funding from the Legal Education Foundation and the Future Advice Fund to launch a for-profit legal social enterprise.
A community interest company specialising in immigration law, Cabot Law is the result of nearly two years of research by the three law centres as they looked to develop new advice models in the wake of the legal aid cuts.
‘Legal aid has all but gone and budget cuts are forcing local authorities which have been supportive of law centres to make difficult decisions about funding priorities; we couldn’t wait,’ said project manager Harry Tedstone.
Cabot Law follows in the footsteps of a clutch of pioneering not-for profit legal organisations such as Castle Park Solicitors, the first law firm to be wholly owned by a charity.
The umbrella body will focus solely on immigration law, an area which founders believe will be sustainable without duplicating the work of other local providers, whether not-for-profit organisations or law firms.
The advice will be provided by solicitors working on a freelance basis, with Cabot Law providing administrative support and access to a network of leads. The CIC intends to launch in spring 2017, and solicitors who are interested in joining the project have until 10 January to apply.
Tedstone said the idea was to focus on areas no longer covered by legal aid but with potential to generate income. Advice will be provided on a fixed-fee basis and the service is projected to generate sufficient income to independently fund a solicitor for each of the member law centres within three or four years.
Cabot Law isn’t the first example of resourcefulness in the not-for-profit legal sector. Since law centres have been able to charge for services in April 2013, a few innovative models have emerged.
Leicester-based community interest company Castle Park Solicitors was set up three years ago as an alternative business structure and is owned by a charity, Community Advice and Law Service.
In London, Islington law centre launched Green Roots in 2014, a not-for-profit CIC law firm providing paid-for affordable legal advice in immigration, education, and employment law.
In due course, Cabot Law might consider expanding into employment, company and commercial, and education law as areas where an affordable service could be developed and provide a revenue stream for the law centres behind the project. They are also looking at ways of developing online services.
Jean-Yves Gilg is editor-in-chief of Solicitors Journal