Now that Covid-19 restrictions have been lifted we reflect on how pro bono legal advice clinic dealt with the challenges the pandemic brought.
Accessing legal advice during the pandemic was extremely difficult for many people; not only did it cause the gap to widen for those without means to pay for legal advice, but clients also did not had the chance to access face to face advice services.
When lockdown was imposed most clinics had to close their doors and cease operation immediately. Yet, despite the challenges of the last 2 years, many clinics adapted and moved to offer advice remotely, be that via online platforms, email or telephone, and in the process have managed to get to grips with new technology, move paperwork to online case management systems, establish remote supervision procedures, and ensure that operating policies reflect the new way of working.
Whilst online advice cannot meet all needs, it has proven to be beneficial for clients who are unable to leave their home, or live in rural, remote areas of the country. However, unfortunately, some clients (often referred to as “the disappeared”) are excluded from receiving advice if they don’t have access to (or have difficulties using) a computer and/or telephone. For this reason it is vital that clinics are supported by the profession and advice sector so that they can re-open face-to-face services, or maintain both online service provision and offer in-person advice sessions (a hybrid model), when it is safe to do so.
To assist clinics to adapt LawWorks has provided support to coordinators and their volunteers through our resources, and InfoExchange events, as well as moving all training and our annual conference online. There has been greater participation from across the network, enabling coordinators to share their experiences and learn from others. We have also captured clinics’ experiences of the last year in our Clinics Network Report 2020, and with information about the key challenges and successes that clinics encountered during the pandemic, we hope to bring together the pro bono community as one voice, to help influence policy and effect change.
It has been a challenging time for pro bono clinics (and other advice organisations). Whilst not always visibly on the ‘front line’, coordinators and volunteers across the LawWorks Clinics Network, including clinics at Bristol Law Centre, the University of Bristol, UWE, BPP and University of Law in Bristol, have risen to the challenge to offer a vital service to their local communities, and we thank them for their continued dedication, commitment and passion in helping those most in need.
With thanks to Clare Johnson, former Head of Clinic Support & Development at