Richmond Legal Advice Service

Volunteering if you are a qualified lawyer

This page provides information if you wish to volunteer at Richmond Legal Advice Service (RLAS) and you are a qualified lawyer (What is meant by a “lawyer volunteer”).

The information on this page provides answers to questions that potential volunteers commonly ask of RLAS. RLAS receives a number of enquiries from people wanting to gain practical legal experience and encourages them.

I am a solicitor or barrister. To give advice do I need a practising certificate?

You do not need current practising certificate to see and advise clients.

Some of our advisers are not practising as solicitors or barristers. For example, some advisers might have child care responsibilities, or are lecturing or pursuing other activities.

When is RLAS open?

In Richmond, each Tuesday evenings between 8pm and 9.30pm.

How long do I need to spend at a session

Although the stated time when RLAS is open is between 8pm and 9pm in practice the following apply:

How often will I have to provide advice?

Volunteers are put on a rota and are normally required to attend 1 week in 4 or 5 on average.

A rota is compiled normally for a 4 month period. If cannot make make a session then it is normally possible to arrange a swap with another adviser.

How specialist or extensive should my legal knowledge as a volunteer be?

The experience of most volunteers is that clients normally require mostly common sense basic advice or some very detailed but specific advice on a particular legal issue or step.

For example, if a client is involved in a consumer dispute, or have a neighbour problem, they may wish to receive advice on starting or defending court action (the steps in taking litigation, letters before action, procedure, costs and so on).

For example, a client may have received general advice from a CAB and then require more specialist help on particular point which the CAB could not answer.

Practically, if you find you cannot help the client before you, then you should refer them to another volunteer, or another advice agency or other specialist legal help, or if you wish to carry out some follow up work of your own. See next point.

What should I do if I cannot help a client?

If a client requires

then RLAS is not the right organisation for them. If a volunteer has a client that falls into these categories then the client is offered the choice of coming back to another session and to see another adviser who knows more about the subject matter the client has asked for help or refer the client onto a firm of solicitors or another advice agency.

RLAS maintains

What kind of advice or assistance do clients require?

In principle RLAS has no restrictions on what types of law it can deal with. But in practice there are some areas which rarely occur at our advice sessions. These are immigration law, social housing law, criminal law and debt advice and assistance. (In any case, where immigration law is involved, advisers (of whatever type) need to have an additional qualifications. Other than the most general advice an adviser should not deal with a client requiring immigration law advice.)

Is follow-up work necessary or required?

There is not normally any follow-up work necessary. Occasionally a lawyer volunteer may need to do some research on a particular issue or legal area or simply does not have available information at a session. This will need doing after an advice session and then provided to the client outside of the session. The amount of follow up work that a volunteer wishes to do is up to to them as long as 4 important principles are kept in mind:

How many clients can I expect to see at a session?

RLAS has an “open door” for clients, so it is not possible to indicate how many clients will come on any particular evening. But in practice, a volunteer should expect to see 3 to 6 clients per a session (based on a volunteer spending no more than 10–15 minutes with each client on average).

How many lawyers are present at an advice session

At every session there are normally 2 to 4 lawyers present (plus any non lawyer volunteers).

What is meant by a “lawyer volunteer”?

The following are considered “lawyer volunteers”:

Last updated: 24 August 2017

  1. This category will include a person who has completed their training contract but their application to become a solicitor is under consideration by the SRA.  ↩