Law centres across England and Wales are seeking to raise funds for an IT upgrade that will enable them to provide innovative services against a background of funding cuts.

Hackney Community Law Centre was the first centre in the country to take part in a digital pilot to provide members of the public with direct access to a barrister.

Law Centres Network director Julie Bishop said it wanted all the centres to have a ‘minimum standard’ of IT infrastructure so they could take ‘these sorts of opportunities further’.

Hackney took part in a pilot involving eight members of the public receiving employment law advice from 1 Gray’s Inn Square barrister Fergus McCombie (pictured talking to Hackney Law Centre’s Diane Morrison).

Business development manager Miranda Grell said the pilot was helpful ‘because normally barristers are not contacted for an opinion until much further down the line and charge for providing one’.

The session ‘speeded up the process considerably and clients knew where they stood from the off’, she said.

‘We have got to find new ways of delivering services and advice to people who desperately need it,’ Grell added. ‘If we have the technology, why not use it?’

The pilot session was arranged by Jonathan Maskew, a consultant for Wigwham, 1 Gray’s Inn Square’s direct access offering.

Though the session was limited to employment law advice, Maskew said it was the ‘first of many’ in various practice areas that fit the communities that law centres serve.