New Model Law Centres?

I learn, from eGovmonitor, that a new business model for law centres in England & Wales is being piloted with the South West London Law Centres (SWLLC).

Support from the Ministry of Justice, together with investment from a number of large city firms, has been developed into a joint project between government, SWLLC, the Law Centres Federation, city law firms and independent funders. The centre, which had been in financial difficulties, is now the focus of a new business model designed for more sustainable operations in law centres and other specialist advice providers.

Legal Aid Minister, Willy Bach is quoted as saying: “Law centres deliver vital civil law advice and representation to hundreds of thousand people every year across England and Wales. They are responsible for transforming people’s lives, helping them stay in their homes, keep their families together and get into employment and education.”

In terms of cold, hard cash the package includes £235,000 from the Ministry of Justice and £80,000 from private funders including big, shiny law firms Clifford Chance, CMS Cameron McKenna, Lovells & Simmons & Simmons.

I like the idea of large commercial firms paying towards the costs for funding law centres – but what happens if you are due to be represented by the law centre, and your landlord / employer / creditor is represented by one of the firms which help to fund it?

If the law centre is making life too difficult for their funders and opponents, does that put at risk future donations? Or if the relationship is too cosy, does that mean that clients will lose confidence in the law centre?

Watch this space, as if the pilot is a success it will surely be considered as a model north of the border before too long.

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