Walk for justice

27 April 2015

Bob Nightingale MBE 2

Bob Nightingale MBE is Chief Executive of the London Legal Support Trust. He has been involved in delivering free legal help to those in need for over 40 years

The need for free legal advice in social welfare matters has increased hugely over the past few years. New rules surrounding benefits, housing, immigration, and employment have made the law harsher and more difficult to comprehend for most people, let alone disadvantaged people. 

Meanwhile, cuts to legal aid have driven swathes of high street firms away from undertaking civil legal aid. That leaves more and more people looking to voluntary advice agencies for help. However, they too have suffered cuts in their council and charitable funding to the extent that many have closed and most of those that remain have reduced considerably in size and capacity. 

Quite naturally, some lawyers have said that the government should be left to stew in a mess of their own making and face the wrath of the people. The reality is that the people who suffer most from a lack of access to justice in social welfare law are so poor and so disadvantage that they can't manage wrath and the government doesn't seem that bothered if they do. 

So most lawyers do their best to help out, either by providing pro bono help where they can or by donating to keep the advice centres alive, or both. 

The biggest vehicle by far that channels support from lawyers to free legal advice agencies is fundraising at the annual legal walks around the county. 

Many cities now have the legal walks (see http://www.atjf.org.uk/events.html for details of a walk near you) and the biggest, bigger than all the others put together, is the London Legal walk.

On a sunny Monday evening last year 8,000 lawyers, along with friends and colleagues, walked and raised £560,000. That fundraising couldn't offset the cuts of course but it did ensure that thousands of vulnerable people received help who would otherwise have been denied it. 

There is still time to join in this year's walk. To organise a team from chambers or to join a team as an individual walker, just visit http://www.londonlegalsupporttrust.org.uk/our-events/london-legal-walk-2015/