Virtual assistants could help food banks and community groups ensure poor and vulnerable people can access the law as part of a new project spearheaded by senior figures in the legal profession.
The Jeanie Project, an access to justice charity, is hoping to crowdfund £7,500 by 9 August to pilot Riverview Law’s KIM technology among civil society organisations to provide advice, information and connections to lawyers simply and effectively.
The charity's trustees are former Law Society president Lucy Scott-Moncrieff, Richard Miller, the Society’s head of justice, and Martin Barnes, chief executive of LawWorks.
Scott-Moncrieff, founder and managing director of London firm Scott-Moncrieff & Associates, says the initial discussion with a client is important, ‘listening to them really carefully, working out what the issues are’.
However, she adds, ‘although it is really important, I do not think it has to be done by a lawyer. It needs to be done by someone who has got the time, interest and energy to do all of that. We’re trying to get civil society organisations, charities and food banks to do some of that first piece of work’.
Pro bono lawyers are also ‘completely overwhelmed’, Scott-Moncrieff says. Receiving the relevant information, ‘all packaged up’, will enable them to do specific legal work in the amount of time they have available.
Scott-Moncrieff would also like to pilot the scheme in MPs’ constituency offices. ‘It has become very clear with the loss of legal aid and pressures on advice agencies that a lot of people are going to their MPs to get help with their legal problems,’ she says.
The KIM technology is being provided by Riverview Law, an alternative business structure, for free and will be ‘tweaked’ for organisations’ particular circumstances. The project was set up after Scott-Moncrieff attended a legal innovation seminar at Strathclyde University in 2015, where Karl Chapman, Riverview Law's chief executive, spoke.