The first facility giving library users access to a free consultation with a lawyer via video-link launched in the heart of London yesterday, with both solicitors and barristers now supporting the concept.
Instant Law UK’s service at Westminster Reference Library will be the first of a series placed in Westminster City Council libraries – which between them receive nearly three million visitors a year. Marylebone’s will open next week.
As first reported on Legal Futures, Instant Law has done a similar deal with Birmingham City Council, and a red telephone box-style kiosk, in Birmingham Central Library, will go live later this month.
Located in a secure part of the library, users will choose the area on which they need advice – including immigration, employment, landlord and tenant, and family matters – and be patched thr
ough to an Instant Law adviser, who will then forward them to an appropriate lawyer for the initial consultation. Market testing shows these take about 20 minutes.
If more in-depth, paid-for advice is required, they will be referred to the HighStreetLawyer.com network, while in Birmingham it will be a combination of St Philips Chambers and an as-yet unnamed law firm as Instant Law wants to have local lawyers on hand if face-to-face advice is required.
Ian Dodd, Instant Law’s business development director, said: “People can often find it difficult to fix a convenient appointment time to discuss their problems and some find solicitors’ premises rather intimidating. Providing this service through the library network overcomes these problems and provides a professional advice service.”
Mike Poore, communications director at Instant Law, added. “We welcome the forward-looking drive in Westminster to use technology to increase and enhance advice services to their residents and other library visitors.”
Cllr Melvyn Caplan, cabinet member for customer services and transformation at Westminster City Council, said: “We have nearly two and three-quarter million visitors a year to Westminster’s libraries and we are committed to keeping our libraries open and expanding the range of services they offer to Londoners.
“We’re excited to play host to the country’s first online legal service, which will transform residents’ access to legal information and advice.”