The new Affordable Advice service from Law for Life and Resolution – a truly modern access to justice solution

This project offers those sorting out their finances after a divorce or going to court over child arrangements a blend of incredibly helpful step-by-step guidance from Advicenow  that enables users to understand and use the processes available, with fixed fee, unbundled legal advice from Resolution family lawyers at the most crucial points in the process.

This service dovetails Public Legal Education approaches with unbundled legal advice to provide low-cost, high-volume effective help for people on low to medium incomes.

Advicenow is the public-facing website of the Litigant in Person Support Strategy, and has lots of resources to help LiPs manage their cases. We know that many Litigants in Person don’t seek the advice they need because of  fear and confusion about prices, the often high cost of advice, and a lack of confidence about how to do it – how to be sure they pick a good solicitor, and how to be sure it would be worth it. There also simply aren’t services that offer unbundled family law advice all over the country or in the way that Advicenow users who are Litigants in Person need.

Law for Life and Resolution have worked together to design a  new service to enable Litigants in Person to get the unbundled advice they need from a panel of Resolution’s solicitors

  • for a fixed fee – where the costs are clear,
  • in a way that dovetails seamlessly with Advicenow’s guides for Litigants in Person,
  • that is more affordable by reducing the time needed by the solicitor,
  • in a way that enables them to feel confident about exactly what help they will receive.

This approach and the importance of confidence in seeking professional help is very much born out by the latest Legal Needs Survey.

The service has also been designed to encourage solicitors on the panel to offer appointments remotely – via telephone or Skype, WhatsApp, or Facetime – to enable the service to go some way towards ameliorating problems of lack of access in remote areas or advice deserts, or indeed for people who find it hard to attend face-to-face appointments for reasons of disability.

It is very early days, the service has just been launched today – but already the first clients are coming through to members of the panel.

We are currently piloting the service, and we will have a number of iterations as we refine the way it works in response to user need, and feedback from users and panel members.

“Yesterday I was advising a woman under the Affordable Advice scheme via Skype. She was in Leicester and I was at my desk in Newcastle. She said that what she had got was extremely helpful.”

Mary Shaw, panel member

How it works – for Advisers and potential referrers

We are initially piloting this service with users of three of our guides, and it is only available to users of those guides.

Advisers and potential referrers are encouraged to look through the A survival guide to sorting out your finances when you get divorce, either the PDF download or the webpages. When the reader gets to the first stage where accessing legal advice would be particularly beneficial, they see a call-out box which explains what they would get advice on and how much it will cost. (There is a different page for each stage where getting legal advice would be particularly beneficial). If they would like to find out more, they get taken to a page where they can select a panel member, and request an appointment.

Referrers may find the full list of points where we offer advice from our panel helpful.

The client can then send their selected solicitor their details, and automatically get sent an email which reminds them of how the service works and includes a form that they must complete and return to the solicitor in advance of their appointment. This form enables the solicitor to use their time with the client as effectively as possible.

Our panel members respond to every inquiry within 2 working days to do a conflict of interest check and set up an appointment at a convenient time.

Following the appointment, the client receives a written summary of the advice given and the next steps they should take in managing their case.

This service is also available for users of How to apply for a court order about the arrangements for your children without the help of a lawyer, or How to apply for a financial order without the help of a lawyer. Advisers, volunteers and potential referrers can download the paid-for extended versions of these guides for free from Law for Life. Contact us for details.

All our guides for family Litigants in Person, including the three involved in this service, can be found at www.advicenow.org.uk/divorce

Published: 26 February 2020

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