LAG dips toe in water to provide online employment advice

Website: Feedback said app was less efficient

A legal think tank charity has launched an online employment rights advice service that it says fills a gap created by the LASPO cuts to legal aid.

It chose a website to deliver the service after a focus group poured cold water on using an app instead.

Accessed via, the Legal Action Group (LAG) service initially targets only the capital but a national version will be rolled out later this year.

LAG acknowledged the move was a significant departure from its normal activity and that it was dipping “its toe into the world of online legal advice services”.

But in a statement it insisted it was “not repositioning itself as a charity providing direct services to the public”.

Instead, it continued: “We believe that developing advice programs to assist lawyers and advisers is an innovation that is in keeping with our mission to disseminate information about the law.

“Like our handbooks and other publications, we hope lawyers and advisers will use the program in their work.”

Areas of advice covered by the service include unpaid wages, holiday pay, sick pay, and notice pay. The site consists of information and decision trees, where the next section depends on the answer given to questions.

LAG said it focused on this subject because, under the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012, most employment law advice was removed from the scope of legal aid. Though the sums at issue were frequently small, they could have a big impact on employees, who were often unable to afford a solicitor.

The group explained that it first started to develop the project three years ago. Initially it approached an app developer, thinking this was the most accessible way to provide the service, but the idea was “firmly… shot down in flames” by focus group research, which said a web-based service would be more effective.

LAG stressed that, while it did not see itself as “as a service provider directly to the public”, it believed “there is potential for the program to be licensed to partners such as law firms, advice services and trade unions, which could potentially provide support for end-users as part of their own services”.

It added: “We hope the program will be widely used in assisting workers and employees who have problems with pay…

“We are also aware, such is the nature of software development, that there will be glitches with the program and your feedback will be invaluable in identifying these so they can be corrected.”

Funders have included inequality charity Trust for London, legal consultancy Jomati, and the Clifford Chance Foundation.

Separately, this week it was announced that Fraser Matcham, law graduate and the founder of the Legal Utopia start-up, has been appointed director of legal innovation at Westminster University Law School’s new legal innovation zone.

This will “focus on enabling law students to work with their peers and a consortium of external tech companies and law firms to develop legal entrepreneurship and technological advancements”.

Elizabeth Duff, the law school’s head, said the innovation programme would “provide students with a significant advantage as they commence employment, enabling us to improve upon our exceptional employability levels”.

The university will host a global legal hackathon later this month which is set to have over 200 lawyers, developers and technologists participating.


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