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Urgent need for legal volunteers to improve access to justice: Louise Curd

“Some of our clients need more specialist legal advice than we can give. We are truly grateful for the support of local legal firms. Without it, the consequences are often dire.”

Louise Curd is Publicity & Fundraising Manager at Citizens Advice Epsom & Ewell.

Whether or not we are lawyers, we all appreciate the importance of an accessible, affordable legal system. I am a lawyer turned charity worker. I left private practice after having a family prompted a review of my priorities. I now work for Citizens Advice Epsom & Ewell (CAEE) and am proud to play a part in supporting our work in helping people solve their problems.

Access to timely legal advice, particularly in contentious cases, can hugely affect outcomes. Sadly with the demise of legal aid funding and the rising cost of living, legal advice is often totally inaccessible for many in our community.

Role of Citizens Advice

Like many local Citizens Advice around the country, CAEE is a small charity established to provide advice and information to local people. We have a dedicated team of highly trained volunteers which enables us to reach around 3,000 clients every year.

Many clients are vulnerable people with a range of problems. Some are illiterate; some have mental health problems; some are digitally excluded. We aim to give every individual the advice and information they need to solve their problems.

In recent times we have seen more families asking for help as the cost of living crisis bites. They need fuel vouchers, access to a food bank, help with balancing an increasingly stretched budget.

Specialist help for those most in need

Some clients need more specialist legal advice than we can give and we work with local pro-bono lawyers to help them. We refer only those most in need but with no prospect of paying privately.

We and our clients are truly grateful to these firms for their enduring support. Without it, the consequences are often dire.

We urgently need more legal volunteers

We are currently seeking to expand our current pro bono legal network. We aim to offer free ½ hour consultations across a range of specialisms including employment, Landlord & Tenant, dispute resolution, immigration, crime and family law.

Local lawyers who can spare 2 or more hours a month make a huge difference to our vulnerable clients. The commitment is flexible and can include face-to-face appointments, by phone or online as required.

We are also recruiting a volunteer Legal Advice Coordinator to develop the initiative. Suitable for a retired lawyer or someone on a career break, this role is key to making it work. Further details are available here.

Local lawyers, can we talk?

If you are a lawyer in North Surrey around Epsom & Ewell, you could join the scheme. Or perhaps you could help with training our advisers? Our Advice Services Manager, Karen Baird would love to have an informal, no-obligation, chat about what’s involved. Contact Karen here.

And if you aren’t a legal professional but want to help, the good news is you can! Please check our website for volunteering opportunities or make a donation.

Together we can help more people access the legal support they need and deserve. This was my aim when I joined the legal profession and I continue to work towards this goal. I feel privileged to be in the company of many who are similarly passionate about access to legal advice for all.  Thank you! 

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