This event is a panel of three experts to discuss Legal Aid and Access to Justice:
Prof. Avrom Sherr is Professor Emeritus and was Director of the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies from 2004 to 2012 and also Deputy Dean of the School of Advanced Legal Studies from 2011 to 2012. He joined the Institute in 1995 as the founding Woolf Professor of Legal Education, a research chair. Prior to joining the IALS, after teaching at the University of Warwick for 16 years, he was the first Alsop Wilkinson Professor of Law at the University of Liverpool and Director of the Centre for Business and Professional Law at Liverpool. Avrom Sherr qualified as a solicitor in 1974 and worked in commercial litigation at Coward Chance till 1980. From 1988 to 2012 he was Director of Training at Macfarlanes.
Prof. Cleber Alves is Professor at Universidade Federal Fluminense, and Universidade Católica de Petrópolis. He is also a Public Defender with the Rio de Janeiro´s State Public Defenders, Brazil. He received his PhD in Law (2005) from Pontificia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro (his doctoral thesis is a comparative study on “Legal Aid in the United States, in France and in Brazil”). He was a Visiting Fellow at the University of Baltimore, USA (2003), the Université de Montpellier, France (2004), and currently at the IALS of the University of London (CAPES Post-Doctoral Research Grant – BEX 10.766/13-8).
Roger Smith OBE is a solicitor, former director of JUSTICE and the Legal Action Group who has written extensively about human rights and legal aid. He has been responsible for two recent reports on the impact of digital delivery on legal services for the poor: Face to Face Legal Services and their Alternatives: global lessons from the digital revolution (with Professor Alan Paterson and available from strath.ac.uk/media/faculties/hass/cpls/Face-to-Face.pdf) ) and Digital Delivery of Legal Services to People on Low Incomes (available at thelef.org). He is a visiting professor at the University of London South Bank and an honorary professor at Kent University. He was awarded an OBE in 2009. He writes monthly columns for the Law Society Gazette and the New Law Journal. He edits the bimonthly newsletter of the International Legal Aid Group (see internationallegalaidgroup.org). He has been director of the Legal Action Group, JUSTICE and a director at the Law Society).
Paying the piper, calling the tune, Prof. Avrom Sherr (IALS). Advice agencies and advice services were substantially cut when in April 2013 the reforms of the LASPO Act took effect. In addition to the previous support given to the Advice Services Alliance and other advice providers to maintain and develop the Advice Quality Standard was withdrawn by the Legal Aid Agency (taking over the responsibility from the Legal Services Commission). This paper charts the formation of the Advice Quality Standard project and the difficulties faced by the Advice Services Alliance in maintaining the Quality Standard without funding and without a champion in government or elsewhere. The lessons to be learned from this short history include how vulnerable quality can be in times of austerity when the value of good advice will be even more important for those in need; how easily a standard can be manipulated by groups with even a small amount of resource; and how relative the concept of quality might be if only used as "window dressing".
Access to Justice and Legal Aid in Brazil and in England/Wales: contemporary chalenges and comparative perspectives, Prof. Cleber Alves (UFF). The Office of Public Defenders (OPD) is the Brazilian governmental agency mandated with the task of providing free legal advice and representation, in all areas of law (civil, family and criminal law) and at all judicial levels, to the poor. It was established by the National Constitution and is currently organised nationwide, staffed by almost 5300 salaried lawyers (called Public Defenders). Recently the Brazilian state-funded legal aid system has expanded significantly (increasing both the number of PD and the budget required to consolidate the agency. Recent Constitutional Amendment (June 2014) and legal reforms (2009) have taken place increasing the powers and importance of the OPD, by strengthening its technical independence and its administrative/financial autonomy; establishing new mandates, functions and powers; demanding better accountability mechanisms; and expanding its objectives. This scenario contrasts with the picture of budget constraints and financial cuts that have caused significant reduction on the scope and eligibility for legal aid services in some countries of Europe that once possessed legal aid services worldwide recognized as paradigmatic, especially England / Wales. It is important to learn possible lessons that can be drawn from this crisis situation experienced by the jurisdictions whose legal aid schemes have always been considered the most advanced internationally. Those lessons may be useful to prevent future problems that may be faced in Brazilian state-funded legal aid scheme. Such lessons can be useful in relation to creative and innovative actions, especially regarding the use of technology to achieve greater cost-effectiveness in the use of increasingly scarce public resources.
Delivering legal services with use of technology, Roger Smith (Law Society) will report on his research on global developments in the use of technology to deliver services to people on low incomes and draw out some of the emerging themes. These include the issue of digital access and exclusion; how technology is making an impact on the development of virtual legal practices; initial diagnosis, information and triage; the advance of avatars and guiding users through legal processes; explorations of the interface between legal information/advice and skills training; and the development of ‘end to end’ programmes like the Civil Resolution Tribunal in British Columbia and the Rechtwijzer in The Netherlands which are seeking to take a user from initial diagnosis to final court-based determination. He will look at the lessons that can be drawn about best practice and the major issues for the future.