Access to justice is not a lost cause despite government cuts to legal aid, former Law Society president Lucy Scott-Moncrieff said this week.
She told the Law Society’s Human Rights Conference 2013: ‘We will hit rock bottom in April. I can’t believe we will be any worse in terms of huge changes. But after that we can either stay rock bottom or move gently upwards.
‘There are a number of ways we can do that, although they will not replace what we have lost.’
She cited the introduction of fixed fees and pay-as-you go as a way of helping people on low incomes access family law services. ‘But that is of no value for people that cannot afford anything,’ she added.
Technology could also help broaden access to services, for example by allowing lawyers to provide advice through Skype and social media for clients who want more flexibility.
‘In my view there is an infinite faith in young lawyers to do better. These are people who understand social media and technology,’ she said. ‘That will be part of the process in extending access to justice to people who could not get it in any other way.’
Pro bono also has a role to play for young lawyers seeking to gain skills and experience, she said.
The conference also heard a call for international firms not to turn a blind eye to human rights abuses in countries where they do business.
Andrew Denny, partner at magic circle firm Allen & Overy, said firms have a duty to open the eyes of clients to the impact human rights abuses can have on their corporate reputation. ‘That is about becoming a more rounded and trusted adviser to the client,’ he said.