A Leicester charity has become the first such not-for-profit organisation to set up and own a law firm.
Castle Park Solicitors was set up as a community interest company with the help of National Lottery funding by local charity the Community Advice and Law Service.
The firm was set up to provide employment, immigration and family services to people on low and middle incomes, who before this year’s legal aid cuts would have been eligible for public funding. It also offers mediation and collaborative law services.
The practice offers fixed fees and an ‘access to justice’ package, charging clients on means-tested benefits half the normal fee rate.
In the long term, any profits from the firm will be returned to the charity to support free advice in other areas of social welfare law.
The Solicitors Regulation Authority granted a special waiver of the separate business rules to the Community Advice and Law Service allowing it to set up Castle Park Solicitors.
Christine Palmer (pictured above, second left), employment solicitor at the firm, said: ‘Castle Park is run as a business separately to the charity with the same financial pressures that most law firms face today.
‘We have an ethical ethos. Unfortunately we cannot give the service for nothing but we have set our rates very competitively.
‘Our aim is to help those people who can no longer get legal aid and simply cannot afford to pay for full private legal services,’ she said.