The 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. It was launched in February 2020 and the pilot stage continued until July 2021.
Advicenow is the public-facing website of the Litigant in Person Support Strategy, and has lots of resources to help LiPs manage their cases.
The service was developed to meet the needs of Litigants in Person and potential Litigants in Person who don’t seek the advice they need because of fear and confusion about prices, the 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 weren’t services that offer low-cost unbundled family law advice all over the country or in the way that Advicenow users need.
Law for Life and Resolution have worked together to design this 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 low-cost and reduces 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 was also designed to encourage solicitors on the panel to offer appointments remotely - via telephone or Zoom, 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. Obviously this has been very useful during the lockdowns and changing regulations as a result of Covid.
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
We are piloting this service with users of four of our most popular guides.
The service has recently been modified to encourage readers to get advice as early as possible as this can help reduce and avoid unnecessary conflict and stress, and ensure that they set off down the right path for them.
When the reader gets to each stage in the guide 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.
The client can then send their selected solicitor their details. At the same time they 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 as soon as they can to do a conflict of interest check and set up an appointment at a convenient time.
During the appointment, the client is supported to make notes of the advice given and what their next steps are.
This service is available for users of A survival guide to sorting out your finances when you get divorce, A survival guide to sorting out arrangements for your children, How to apply for a court order about the arrangements for your children without the help of a lawyer, and How to apply for a financial order without the help of a lawyer.
The first two of these guides, which support couples and parents to agree fair arrangements, are free for users to download. We do charge those that can afford to pay for the last two guides, which show readers step by step how to go to court over the issue if they have to. These guides are available for free to those who cannot afford to pay, and for advisers, volunteers and potential referrers. Contact us for details.
All our guides for family Litigants in Person, including the four involved in this service, can be found at Help to deal with family problems.
Updated March 2021