Friday, 14 May 2010

Call for Scottish register to create an inclusive and accessible pool of pro bono legal talent

Pro bono work offers a "huge width of potential" to help those excluded from legal services, the Lord Advocate said today. Elish Angiolini QC gave the keynote address at a conference hosted by her in the Scottish Government offices, entitled "For the Public Good: The Future of Pro Bono Legal Services in Scotland". 

The Lord Advocate told the conference that Scottish lawyers "have a long tradition of working to ensure that people are treated fairly and have their rights respected. The unfortunate reality, however, is that there are many people who cannot afford legal advice when they need it".

Speaking at the conference, Govan Law Centre's Principal Solicitor, Mike Dailly, made a call for a national, free, online pro bono Scottish ''register' to collate who was free to volunteer, the skills set they had, and which organisations had vacancies, and what skills they were looking for.  GLC believes that no one body should have a monopoly on co-ordinating or delivering pro bono work. Scotland needs an inclusive system whereby any advice agency, firm or local charity could tap into a pool of legal talent (which should include retired lawyers, practitioners and law students). GLC believes the Law Society of Scotland is best placed to provide this online, free, co-ordinating service in the public interest.

GLC also renewed our call for a proper Scottish public legal education strategy to empower citizens with self-help remedies; and tackle scam artists, which include all too many claims management companies (currently wholly unregulated in Scotland).  A key priority for GLC was the need to focus on public interest casework in Scotland: to undertake legal work and research that could change the legal landscape, and improve the lives of the Scottish public, particulary those on low and modest incomes and those subject to discrimination.

GLC congratulated the Lord Advocate for taking the lead in Scotland on the development on pro bono legal services.  The contribution from GLC's Mike Dailly is available online here.

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