Law centres are exploring a range of new business models to survive – but few are likely to take the alternative business structure route, the director of the centres’ umbrella body said this week.
Julie Bishop, director of the Law Centres Network (formerly the Law Centres Federation), said that centres are looking at different ways to ensure clients have access to quality advice after legal aid is removed from many areas of law in April.
Islington Law Centre in London has applied to the Solicitors Regulation Authority for ABS status to enable it to charge clients for some legal services. At present, law centres are prohibited from doing so. However, Rochdale Law Centre has set up an LLP and the centre in London’s Tower Hamlets has established a co-operative with other agencies in the borough.
Bishop said that other centres may go down the ABS route, but that she did not expect all to do so, given the ‘arduous’ application process.
‘Their main aim is not a financial solution, but about trying to meet a need that’s being opened up,’ she said. ‘Given the communities they serve, they won’t be making big profits.’