This week, leading UK law firm, Shepherd and Wedderburn, celebrates the anniversary of its legal advice clinics, which have been held at Musselburgh and Haddington Citizens Advice Bureaus (CAB) for the past five years.
First launched in August 2011, the clinics were set up in conjunction with LawWorks Scotland, a charity, established to co-ordinate, develop and encourage the provision of pro-bono legal services to members of the Scottish public who would otherwise be unable to afford legal advice.
Commenting on the charity’s service, Yvonne Cassidy, Manager Musselburgh Citizens Advice Bureau, said: “Musselburgh CAB and our clients have benefited from free legal advice through LawWorks Scotland. In addition to the service to clients, our volunteer advisers also benefit from the service. The knowledge and expertise of the LawWorks advisers often goes beyond the CAB remit.”
As one of the founder members of LawWorks Scotland, Shepherd and Wedderburn provides volunteer solicitors to assist in the running of legal clinics operated by CAB.
Over the past five years, 94 Shepherd and Wedderburn solicitors have volunteered their time and expertise to help CAB clients with legal issues ranging from property, employment and consumer matters, to issues involving family, contract or criminal law. Between the Citizens Advice Bureaus at Haddington and Musselburgh, the firm has conducted a total of 303 interviews.
According to Jemiel Benison, Manager, Haddington Citizens Advice Bureau, there has been no limit on the types of subjects clients have raised but most frequently legal advice is sought in relation to debt, housing and financial products.
He said: “The service provides clients with advice on all sorts of legal issues including some very complex matters. Clients of the service appreciate the diligent work carried out on their enquiry and the professionalism with which the advice is sensitively delivered. Sometimes the advice is a solution, at other times it provides appropriate perspective on the issues, enabling the client to make informed decisions about how they will progress their case.”
Shepherd and Wedderburn partner, Gillian Carty, who leads the firm’s efforts in running the legal advice clinics, commented: “LawWorks Scotland provides a fantastic service in matching lawyers who are eager to volunteer, with members of the public who need legal support but are unable to access that support through other means. Not only do the clinics provide the practical advice CAB clients need, they are highly beneficial to our staff who find the experience personally and professionally rewarding. I have seen many young solicitors develop new skills and expand their areas of expertise.
“Shepherd and Wedderburn is delighted to have been part of the team which has delivered a sustainable pro bono advice project and we look forward to our continued relationship with Haddington and Musselburgh CAB, as well as LawWorks Scotland to provide this much needed service.”
Peter Anderson, a Senior Partner at Clyde & Co and Chair of LawWorks Scotland said: “Scotland’s lawyers have a fine heritage providing free legal work. It’s not just history. It is still vital for lawyers in Scotland to provide advice and services, in the right cases, at no cost. LawWorks Scotland leads the way in showing this and helping to set up clinics. The Haddington and Musselburgh legal clinics are great examples to all of us, showing what can be done with some effort and commitment. We are very impressed by the efforts and commitment of all involved and particular thanks to everyone at Shepherd and Wedderburn for the dedicated hard work which has created this sustained success.”
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