Cheshire East Council

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Let law graduates represent litigants-in-person: Master of the Rolls

The Master of the Rolls, Sir Terence Etherton has proposed a scheme to allow law graduates to provide advice and representation to litigants-in-person (LiPs).

Speaking at the annual Law Works Pro Bono awards earlier this month, Sir Terence said that such a scheme (as well as existing initiatives such as those run by the Chancery Bar and Queen’s Bench Division) would be “immeasurably better” than the current system of paid McKenzie Friends, which he said left some litigants at risk of exploitation.

Enabling law graduates to provide advice in this way, he said, would require collaboration between universities, pro bono advice centres and organisations and law firms to create an expanded advice scheme, combining the approach of the more successful university law clinics such as that at Kent University with the expertise of pro bono advice centres.

The scheme would be aimed at law graduates who had completed the both the academic and vocational stages of their education but had not yet secured a training contract or pupillage. They would provide advice as trainees registered with the university or pro bono advice centre following training and under the supervision of lawyers permanently employed by the university’s legal advice centre or a pro bono advice centre or lawyers provided by law firms and chambers on a pro bono basis.

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Sir Terence also suggested that these graduates could also provide representation at Court in (unspecified) types of proceedings. Such an initiative, he said, could be piloted under part 51 of the Civil Procedure Rules, which enables practice directions to modify existing rules to allow innovative approaches to civil procedure to be tested.

“Should we not consider how we can do two things: facilitate entry into practice of these law graduates and while so doing provide legal advice and assistance to LiPs? This answer to that question seems obvious. The real question, in fact, seems to me to be how do we do this, and not should we do this,” Sir Terence said.

The Local Government Lawyer Dispute Resolution Survey 2016 (http://www.localgovernmentlawyer.co.uk/resolution/) found that 78% of local authorities had experienced an increase in litigants-in-person, following reductions in legal aid for many types of legal dispute. Respondents to the survey said that a lack of objective legal advice for LiPs was prolonging the length and expense of legal proceedings and causing many hopeless claims to be pursued.

A transcript of the speech can be found at https://www.judiciary.gov.uk/announcements/lecture-by-sir-terrence-etherton-mr-lawworks-annual-pro-bono-awards-lecture-2016/

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