Hogan Lovells and APPG on Pro Bono Reveal Extent of Unmet Legal Need in London

London, 19 April 2017 – Hogan Lovells and the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Pro Bono have called for increased funding for legal support for people in London, as a report into MPs surgeries showed constituents are increasingly seeking legal advice at MP surgeries.

The report, Mind the Gap: an assessment of unmet legal need in London, assessed the extent of legal need at 40 MP surgeries across London. MPs from 21 constituencies took part, representing over a third (37%) of London’s 5,266,904 strong electorate. A team of Hogan Lovells volunteers visited the surgeries over two months, during which time they recorded visits by 325 constituents with 352 problems. Of those problems, 89.5% were regarding legal or access to justice issues, among them 37% housing issues, 23% immigration issues, and 13% welfare issues.

"The findings demonstrate the scale of legal need across London", said Yasmin Waljee, International Pro Bono Director at Hogan Lovells. "Some law firms could and should be doing more, but based on our research this doesn't even begin to address the growing and largely unmet need for professional legal advice in London, let alone the rest of the UK. We urgently call for Government to increase funding for specialist advice and to re-think its cuts to legal aid and invest in the sector."

The report identified a need for:

  • Increased funding for Law Centres and CABs
  • Investment in legal services in relation to housing advice
  • Training for MPs and caseworkers on identifying legal issues, legal aid availability and referral resources
  • The development of a comprehensive database of free legal advice sources available to individuals in London that could be of use to caseworkers and constituents
  • Public legal education to be more readily accessible and provided to constituents
  • Better collaboration between lawyers, MPs and charities.

Hogan Lovells have been working with the APPG on Pro Bono on this joint project as part of the firm’s London Pro Bono programme and from a shared concern over access to justice. Whilst reflecting London issues specifically, the findings of the report will provide food for thought for policy makers looking at the future of legal aid and support.

Chair of the APPG on Pro Bono Alex Chalk said:

"Many MPs’ offices are seeing more constituents in their surgeries needing legal advice and representation than ever before. Access to justice underpins the rule of law and even a stable society; and fighting to preserve that access has never been more important. Assisting constituents increasingly requires MPs’ offices to have a solid knowledge of the new landscape of legal resources – including the pro bono services which so many practitioners magnificently and selflessly provide.”

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