The Legal Walk is one of over 30 similar events which run across England and Wales. The after work sponsored walk raises funds for local free legal advice charities in Southampton and beyond, throughout the South West. Teams from local law firms, chambers and in-house legal teams are expected to come together along with local judges to support local advice services such as Citizens Advice Bureau and Law Centres.
The event is run by the South West Legal Support Trust (SWLST). The SWLST was formed in 2010 to raise and distribute funds to support the provision of free legal advice in Southampton and the South West to those who otherwise would not be able to afford it. It is part of a network of Legal Support Trusts, working with the Access to Justice Foundation, to facilitate the access to specialist legal advice for the poorest and most vulnerable people in the community.
The organisations supported by the Southampton Legal Walk make a huge difference in the lives of many people. The recent cuts to civil legal aid have not only affected the legal profession, but have also drastically impacted the services provided to members of the public. Advice services, such as Law Centres and Citizens Advice Bureau, are struggling to provide free legal services on issues of housing and employment, meaning individuals seeking help and support will either have to pay for advice or do the work themselves without any specialist help.
Meanwhile, the economic downturn has meant thousands more individuals and families are now unable to afford advice and turning to free legal advice agencies for help.
The additional cuts to local government funding of advice services means these charities are fighting to survive. Some organisations have merged, meaning already tight resources are being stretched over greater distances, but more frequently, others have ceased to provide services altogether. Since the cuts have come into force the number of Law Centres has decreased by 20%, meaning there are currently only 43 Law Centres covering the country. The closest Law Centre to Southampton is now based on the Isle of Wight.
On May 9 lawyers from across the area will be walking to show their support for the advice sector.
Despite the cuts to legal aid forcing the closure of many law firms the legal profession has always championed access to justice for all.
The Southampton Legal Walk is an enjoyable event which celebrates the continued work of the legal profession and advice sector in protecting people’s rights and prompting equal access to justice for all.