Providing pro bono access to justice for people is fine as long as it doesn't involve suing public services, hospitals who commit medical negligence, accountants who cook the books, or possibly even your own lawyer who makes off with your loot, all of which are subjects which may be off the scale of free advice offered by legal ‘charity’ LawWorks Scotland, whose first legal advice clinic was opened by the Cabinet Secretary for Justice Kenny MacAskill in Haddington today, Monday, 26 September.
LawWorks Scotland was launched earlier this year to promote and facilitate the provision of pro bono services by the legal profession in Scotland, with its first legal advice clinics taking place last month at Haddington and Musselburgh Citizens Advice Bureaux.
The new LawWorks Scotland clinics have opened with support from Shepherd + Wedderburn, one of the charity's founding member firms.
Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said: "Providing access to justice for people who need it remains a priority for the Scottish Government and I am delighted the first LawWorks Scotland Clinic is now up and running in Haddington.
"This clinic will provide pro bono legal advice to people in a range of circumstances, including in relation to matters such as housing disputes, consumer issues and debt. Practitioners around Scotland have already signed up and I encourage others to follow their example, to help ensure quick, accessible advice is available for those in need."
The charity's chairman, Ian Moffett, said: "We are delighted that the Justice Secretary is supporting LawWorks Scotland and will officially open the new East Lothian clinics.
"We have been very encouraged by the support we have had so far from the legal profession. By continuing to work with front line agencies, such as Citizens Advice, we hope to build upon the success of these clinics and attract more law firms to work with us to develop a network of similar clinics across the length and breadth of Scotland to respond to a presently unmet need.
"While LawWorks Scotland is at an early stage, we have made great progress since our launch in March which was supported by our patron, former Lord Advocate, Dame Elish Angiolini. An increasing number of leading law firms have signed up to join LawWorks Scotland, which in addition to providing them with a tangible expression of their CSR commitment, makes a difference that counts on the front line. It's our aim to emulate the success of LawWorks in England and Wales which has seen many of the bigger firms sign up to the scheme."
Cameron Ritchie, president of the Law Society of Scotland, said: "The new LawWorks Scotland clinics shows real progress in the charity's ambitions. The Society is very supportive of LawWorks Scotland and providing pro bono legal advice to those who need it is a deep rooted tradition within the Scottish legal profession.
"While LawWorks Scotland's work can never be a substitute for a properly funded system of legal advice, the reality is that there will always be cases and situations which are not covered by the legal aid system. Solicitors working through LawWorks Scotland will play a vital role in plugging this gap, meeting the needs of those who require legal advice and widening access to justice."