The roundtable event at the international law firm’s Guildford office, chaired by partner Sally Ashford, attendees discussed the role that pro bono initiatives and increased collaboration amongst key stakeholders can play in bridging the current gap.
The action-oriented discussion was attended by stakeholders from across the county including HHJ Alison Raeside (Designated Family Judge for Surrey); DJ Lynda Nightingale (District Judge from Guildford County Court) and Julia Tymukas, CEO Guildford Citizens Advice Bureau. Roundtable participants also included representatives from the University of Law in Guildford, Surrey Law Society, the University of Surrey, South West Law Centres, the Legal Education Foundation, LawWorks and a number of law firms from across the county.
Sally Ashford said: “The first part of the event focused on the challenge of access to justice in Surrey. It was evident, listening to the experts around the table, that vulnerable people in Surrey are not getting the legal advice and guidance they need in a wide range of areas including family law, immigration, housing and employment law. We then went on to discuss how the key stakeholders in the room could potentially work together to help bridge the current gaps.
“It was clear that pockets of pro bono support are available in Surrey but there needs to be increased collaboration and communication between key stakeholders to develop sustainable initiatives across the county that help increase access to justice. It was hugely encouraging to see the willingness from representatives from across the justice system to work together. This is the start of the journey and we look forward to building on the discussions which took place.”
A number of potential initiatives were suggested at the event, including increased involvement from Surrey-based law students to help with case work and form filling, greater use of technology for online consultations with lawyers, and the appointment of a co-ordinator for pro bono legal activity across Surrey.
Kerry Stares, Pro Bono legal director at Charles Russell Speechlys concluded: “Charles Russell Speechlys’ lawyers have always made a strong contribution to pro bono legal services in the local area. We want to build on that and increase our impact by working collaboratively with all local stakeholders, including sharing ideas and best practice from our own pro bono work with other firms.”
Left to right: Guy Beringer, Chair, Legal Education Foundation; HHJ Alison Raeside, Designated Family Judge for Surrey; Sally Ashford, Partner, Charles Russell Speechlys; Julia Tymukas, CEO Guildford Citizens Advice Bureau and DJ Lynda Nightingale, District Judge from Guildford County Court).