Filling the family law gap: the Citizens Advice Bureau

Due to recent cuts in legal aid funding, especially for family law, there has been an increased demand on the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB).

I have been working pro bono at the Guildford CAB, sitting in on client interviews with the attending solicitor, making notes and creating case notes for the bureau’s after interviews.

There is a broad spectrum of legal issues that crop up however from trusts to tort to family, all of which have been interesting to see in practice. Within those there are often some sensitive issues: recent divorces, child abuse, domestic abuse and benefit fraud.

I was motivated to participate in pro bono because it offered a completely different experience to any work I had done previously. I had limited family law experience and a lack of actual client contact, both of which the CAB offered. I was also motivated by the good work that CAB does and that pro bono in general does for the community.

The benefit of pro bono for me has largely been the experience of new areas of law and the client contact. In meeting the attending solicitors there has also been the opportunity to network and even be offered work experience. The sense of doing good and putting into practice what I had learned during the GDL was also greatly rewarding.

The client is, of course, the one who benefits the most as they get free legal advice from the volunteer solicitor. The client cannot be represented by the solicitor, nor can that solicitor do work for the client, but they can be directed in court matters and be assisted in filling out important documentation. All of the clients I witnessed coming through the CAB were very grateful for the help they received.

My experience with the CAB has made me appreciate much more the work that they do for people and it is certainly something I can see myself doing once I am qualified.

Aidan Welton is an LPC student at the University of Law