An interpreter company is set to appoint a huge panel of hundreds of law firms for a new Community Legal Helpline.
Yorkshire-based translation firm Applied eXperts Ltd said it is responding to a rise in legal queries from non-English speaking individuals by launching a dedicated helpline.
Firms on the panel will receive free referrals without having to pay any commission or subscription fee.
Toheed Ahmad and Roger Moore are behind the initiative, and Mr Ahmad said the number of people turning to the company for help has rocketed since the cuts to legal aid and changes to areas of the law such as immigration.
Helpline callers will be “signposted” to one of the panel firms dependant on their query.
Having worked closely with solicitors’ firms through the company’s interpretation services, Mr Ahmad said he saw an opportunity to further assist members of non-English speaking communities.
He said: “It is very important to get the right piece of advice and what we have done in the past is be a ‘listening ear’ to people’s issues through our interpretation and translation services and where they have a legal problem, signpost them to local solicitors.
“We never offer legal advice, my background is as a trained interpreter. This is about formalising that process.”
Mr Ahmad said there had been a noticeable rise in legal queries since the referral fee ban came into force and cuts in legal aid hit.
He said: “People don’t appreciate the difference between an RTA claim and a clinical negligence claim and that is where we need to point them to specialist law firms with expert knowledge.
“We are getting a lot more people contacting us with legal aid issues around family law. There are so many changes in the legal sector at the moment, we feel it will help people to provide this service.”
Mr Ahmad wants “hundreds” of firms on the panel, with a “good quality” mix of specialisms including family, personal injury and immigration.
He said the helpline is ready to launch on a trial basis, and has already had interest from firms such as Pannone, right through to ‘one-man bands’.
“The kind of legal queries we get are a real mixture, but many are about family splits, custody and finances. Immigration is such a vast area and because there are many changes to the rules, we anticipate a lot of people ringing in. We will simply refer them on to our panel firms.”
The company is stepping up its marketing activities in a bid to network with more than 3,000 relevant community, voluntary and statutory organisations, such as domestic violence units.
To fund this, 10% of revenue from translation or interpretation orders placed by panel firms will go towards the helpline. However, panel firms are under no obligation to use Applied eXperts.
The founders said solicitors’ firms on its panel would benefit from “direct client referrals to increase business” and “increased awareness” of the firm’s services and local presence.
The firm’s website pitches the helpline as a ‘community project’. It says the voluntary service is provided free of charge to help non-English communities.
The company’s interpreters, translators and investigators offer firms litigation support on a fixed-fee basis.