A new scheme which has stepped in to help Shropshire and mid Wales families left without access to Legal Aid is proving to be successful.
The ‘Legal Ease’ initiative has been launched by county firm Wace Morgan Solicitors in response to government changes to the legal system.
It aims to assist people who are no longer able to receive specialist advice since swingeing cuts to the Legal Aid system were introduced earlier this year.
Robert Adams, a family solicitor with Wace Morgan, which has three offices in Shrewsbury and one in Newtown, hit out at the changes, saying that they had left hundreds of people in the region high and dry.
He commented: “As soon as the government slashed Legal Aid for the majority of divorce and co-habitation cases in April of this year we knew that we had to come up with a solution to this difficult situation.
“We want to provide for a demand that still exists – advice in these sensitive and very important areas where the state has seen fit to withdraw access to proper legal representation for people who are less well off.
“As a firm with strong community roots, and a commitment to proving affordable services to those in need, we developed the Legal Ease scheme to help people going through a financial dispute caused by the break up of a family. We are one of very few firms to take such an initiative and promote it widely.”
Wace Morgan offers the scheme to clients who would previously have been eligible for public funding, as well as others who would not have received Legal Aid.
The firm’s team of specialist family lawyers will either undertake their case at a reduced hourly rate – approximately the Legal Aid rate – or specify a fixed fee for the work involved.
“Some clients prefer the fixed fee arrangement as they know at the outset what it is going to cost and can budget for it. Others prefer the reduced hourly rate as it enables them to consider the continuing overall costs when making attempts to reach an agreement of their case,” Robert said.
There has been a very positive reaction to the scheme, with regular take-up of both strands. Wace Morgan also offers a free 20-minute consultation to all new enquiries.
Robert said that the Legal Aid cuts have already resulted in the substantial rise in unrepresented parties appearing before the courts, meaning that cases were taking longer and waiting lists for a hearing were increased, causing anxiety and difficulty in cases involving children and money.