Employees across London experiencing employment-related problems can now get free legal advice thanks to The College of Law in Bloomsbury.
The College, based in Store Street, has set up a free employment rights telephone advice line aimed at people, who may otherwise be unable to afford access to legal guidance.
It is being launched this week to mark National Pro Bono Week, which runs from November 9 – 13 and comprises events across the country to celebrate the range and impact of pro bono activity undertaken by solicitors, barristers, legal executives and law students.
Under the new scheme people with employment worries can call The College of Law Employment Telephone Advice (or COLETA for short) and leave a message. A College student will call them back within 24 hours and carry out a fact-finding interview over the phone.
The student then makes an appointment for a fully-qualified employment lawyer to call the client and give advice.
The scheme is currently being supported by seven law firms across London, who contribute the time of their employment experts free of charge. They are Bishop & Sewell; Withers; Beachcroft; CMS Cameron McKenna; Prettys; Olswang and McGrigors. The College is also in discussion with several other firms who are expected to get on board in the coming months.
The scheme is supervised by Sally Gill who herself specialises in employment. Sally is responsible for training the students to run the advice line and for selecting suitable cases for the lawyers who volunteer. Conflict checks are undertaken before any work is allocated to a volunteer, and there is a handbook for the students who provide support during the advice session.
She said: “I’m really excited about the opportunity this presents for clients, students and lawyers. For the lawyers, it is a great way to give something back to their community. Students will have the opportunity to experience life as a trainee, and clients will obtain free legal advice on the merits of their case. It’s an all round win-win situation."
Sara Chandler, Pro Bono Coordinator at The College of Law, Bloomsbury said: “This new advice line allows students to get experience in dealing with real cases and also helps the local community. Students gain valuable first-hand experience of client relationships, legal research and drafting while at the same time benefitting people, who may otherwise not have access to legal guidance. This would not be possible without the kind support of all the law firms, who are donating the services of their employment lawyers for free."
The launch of COLETA is part of The College of Law’s award-winning pro bono work across the country. Employment advice lines have also been set up at its centres in Birmingham, Chester, Guildford, Manchester and York.
Employees wanting help with employment issues should call COLETA on 01483 216762 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
COLETA is also looking for more volunteer lawyers to advise clients. Anyone interested should contact Sally at email@example.com for more information.