Denton Wilde Sapte LLP


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Name of Company:Denton Wilde Sapte LLP
Programme Name:PopLaw
Staff in London:1,033 (527 legal staff)

Overview

PopLaw is a free weekly legal clinic which was established by Denton Wilde Sapte in partnership with LawWorks, Poplar Housing and Regeneration Community Association and the East London Business Alliance. It is managed and staffed by Denton Wilde Sapte. The drop-in clinic takes place every Tuesday evening and is located in Poplar, East London, one of the most deprived areas in the country. It offers free legal advice to individuals who may not otherwise be able to access or afford it. Almost all areas of law are covered, except for criminal, family and immigration law, but the most regular subjects include; debt, housing, consumer issues, employment and welfare benefits.

Each week, five volunteers staff the clinic and consult with around 10 clients. The volunteers frequently follow-up their advice at a later date with further assistance to their client. . Advice is sometimes communicated through translators because of the mix of languages spoken.

Management

PopLaw is run by Denton Wilde Sapte's Pro Bono Committee. The Committee manage a rota of over 90 volunteers from across the firm, including a cross-section of partners, solicitors, barristers and trainees, who staff the clinic each week. Administrative support is provided through a rota of law students from Queen Mary College. The Committee has also produced a handbook for volunteers, which provides guidelines on giving advice at the clinic. The project has been supported by Denton Wilde Sapte's senior management from its conception.

PopLaw is advertised to potential clients through flyers and posters which are circulated in Ideas Stores, community centres and local doctors' surgeries. Advertisements are placed in East London Life on a semi-regular basis to ensure that the community is aware of the clinic. The clinic is run from the Ideas Store in Poplar which provides library and learning services. The community nature of the venue makes it an excellent location for the clinic, providing a familiar, comfortable environment.

External PR for PopLaw has been achieved by placing a release in The Lawyer's pro bono column, and by inviting local press to the clinic's first birthday celebration. This was also attended by Tower Hamlets councillors and Jim Fitzpatrick, MP for Poplar and Canning Town.

Impact

Since it was established in January 2006, PopLaw has advised 669 clients, with 91 volunteers providing 1,228 hours of assistance. This has saved the community over £500,000 in legal fees. In a community with over 35 per cent unemployment (source: National Statistics), the individuals receiving legal advice from PopLaw often cannot afford advice from other sources. This assistance can be invaluable in helping to arrange business affairs, prevent evictions, ensure clients are claiming the benefits they are entitled to, and assisting in complex areas such as tax and employment law.

"Poplar Housing and Regeneration Community Association (Popular HARCA) was very concerned that Poplar residents had no access to affordable legal advice and we are delighted that Denton Wilde Sapte has been meeting this need for the last 18 months.

PopLaw is an example of how co-operation between the public and private sectors can really enhance the lives of people, many of whom live in difficult circumstances. Many residents have commented that the service they received has helped them maintain their tenancies. PopLaw has also assisted in resolving domestic violence issues and assisting with access to appropriate education. Lease holders are frequently signposted to the service by staff at the community centres when they require complex legal advice. Without this referral agency, residents would be further disadvantaged and the community services offered by Poplar HARCA would be impoverished."

- Genny Renard, Interim Deputy Head of Communities and Neighbourhoods, Poplar HARCA