An Ipswich law firm has increased its provision of free legal advice to those in need after teaming up with Suffolk Law Centre.
Prettys Solicitors has been supporting the organisation, which provides free legal assistance to those in need, for a number of years by offering regular volunteer-run clinics.
But the team, which donate their time to give advice on a range of issues including debt, housing, family, wills, probate, and employment, have found that demand has dramatically soared since the coronavirus pandemic struck in March.
To help to combat this, Prettys has increased the number of volunteers at the centre, and the number of clinics it runs.
Louise Plant, Senior Associate and head of Prettys’ Personal Injury and Insurance Services team, said: “Very few people and businesses have not been impacted by the pandemic and its fallout.
“As a community, it is important that where possible, those of us that have the skills, capability and availability do provide support where they can to the local community.
“For many years Prettys, along with a number of other local firms in Suffolk, has supported Suffolk Law Centre, mainly in the form of volunteers who help provide legal advice at their regular clinics.”
Sharon Lee, triage officer for Suffolk Law Centre, said the number of clinics being provided to clients had doubled in the last six months.
“Prior to lockdown, Suffolk Law Centre held on average 15 legal advice clinics a month, seeing three to four clients per clinic,” she said. “This number has doubled as demand for legal advice has increased and because our legal volunteers have been flexible and generous with their time.
“Prettys have increased their volunteering time at Suffolk Law Centre considerably by providing twice the amount of clinics during the lockdown period. In addition, they have acted as a source of advice and support to Suffolk Law Centre during a time where we have been presented with some different and very complex legal issues.”
Michael Booth, solicitor in the Commercial Dispute Resolution team at Prettys added: “Volunteering at Suffolk Law Centre is an excellent way for lawyers to use their skills to assist the local community. Legal advice helps clients to evaluate their position; to understand how matters might proceed; and to resolve problems. Providing just a little bit of time at the centre can make a very big difference to the clients that seek assistance.”
With the fallout from the second lockdown and the subsequent restrictions set to impact even more vulnerable people, Suffolk Law Centre is urging other law firms in the area to join them to increase the public’s access to legal advice.
For more information about Suffolk Law Centre, including how to volunteer, visit http://www.iscre.org.uk/legal-services/