Access to Legal Services: The Contribution of Alternative Approaches

summary:

'I welcome this research report. It makes a valuable contribution to the debate about how best to provide legal services to those most in need of them. My vision of a Community Legal Service embraces the development of new approaches, for example, outreach, 'second tier' services and telephone advice. It is important to establish how these ideas can be put into practice.'
The Lord Chancellor
The Right Honourable The Lord Irvine of Lairg

Since 1994 the Legal Aid Board has been piloting, developing and refining a system for all civil legal advice and assistance to be provided through contracts by advice agencies, law centres, and by private practice solicitors, which will fully replace the current 'green form' scheme by the end of 1999.

Until now, most of the advice and legal services in these pilots have been based on face-to-face services, provided from the high street offices of advice centres, law centres, or solicitors in private practice. With the publication of this research, a new phase of experiment with different 'alternative' approaches to provision of these services begins.

This research was commissioned by the Legal Aid Board and is based on case studies of specific 'alternative' services provided in the not-for-profit sector by 31 advice agencies and law centres in England and Wales - six rural services; five outreach services; six 'second tier' services (support services provided to advice agencies by specialist agencies); five telephone services; and nine services for particular client groups. Despite the label 'alternative', such approaches are on the whole well established in the advice sector and many of them are fairly common.

The report sets out the ways and the circumstances in which the different alternative services improve access to legal advice and assistance, explores the strengths and weaknesses of each approach, and proposes a framework within which the Board and its Regional Legal Services Committees can commission suitable and effective alternative services. The Legal Aid Board is now using both the findings and the framework in a pilot of alternative services due to begin in late 1999.

ISBN: 085374761X