Why I do it?  Why I volunteer for Suffolk Law Centre; and why you should too 

A new regular series profiling our volunteers 

By Audrey Ludwig 

You might find it strange for me to say I volunteer for the Law Centre.

After all, since its inception in 2018 I have been Director of Legal Services, and whilst the rate is relatively modest, I am paid for my day job. I act as senior solicitor, advise the Board, undertake external relations, troubleshoot etc.

Over the last two years or so, since going part time, I have also been a volunteer. I advise in our telephone Law Advice Clinic on discrimination law. This was my legal specialism since 2006. Every few weeks, on my day off I give 30 minutes pro bono advice to people who believe themselves to have been discriminated against, but their income or capital is above the low legal aid threshold.

Whilst legal aid still available for discrimination, most people do not qualify especially if in work, even with low pay. The present income and capital limits do not reflect financial reality and  have not been increased since 2009, despite £1 that year being the equivalent of £1.29 in 2021. So, the people I advise often are of modest means and have little or no knowledge of the legal process.

Why do I do it? Because these people really benefit from my help, modest in time as it is. Early legal advice  helps address problems before they escalate and can prevent cases going to court unnecessarily. I have advised disabled people still in work but struggling because of refusals of reasonable adjustments to shift patterns or office working how to request reasonable adjustments and how to word grievances. I have advised about whether Council policies are discriminatory. I have advised on how to complain to Ombudsmen, the Early Conciliation process or the process in litigation for those struggling to act as litigants in person. I have advised that a claim is legally weak and to pursue it would risk costs being awarded against them.

I find these 30-minute advice sessions rewarding and even a boost to my spirits. The clients are happy to hear from me, generally grateful and very varied. The appointments are set up by Suffolk Law Centre staff and I get relevant papers in advance to read and do brief research. I just make a brief note of what we discussed, and the advice given. When I can think of further sources of help, (like them checking insurances for legal expenses insurance or to the charity Advocate) I suggest them.

We have similar Law Advice 30-minute telephone clinics for employment, family, wills probate and elder care, personal injury, immigration, housing and a general clinic. If you are a legal professional, whether solicitor, barrister, legal executive or experienced paralegal, working or retired, and interested in helping do contact us at office@suffolklawcentre.org.uk