The Litigant in Person Network is an online platform which aims to connect a wide range of people with a common goal of improving access to justice. Coordinated by the Litigant in Person Support Strategy, and supported by The Legal Education Foundation, the network is a place for interested professionals to share, discussion and collaborate across sectors on issues relating to both actual and potential Litigants in Person (LiPs).
What is the problem?
Access to free legal advice and representation is getting more and more difficult, having a disproportionately high impact on vulnerable people who may lose their home, income or contact with their family as a result of not being able to access the right support. Recent research has shown that the problem is getting worst, with 80% of private family cases having at least one party unrepresented.
At the same time, innovation and progress in access to justice is happening everywhere. Until now, there has been no central, online platform where a wide range of people can share information. There is consequently a risk that developments and resources are being missed, leading to duplication or gaps.
What are we doing about it?
We are currently in the final stages of developing an online network aiming to connect those with a common goal of improving access to justice for those without means. This group includes the advice sector, legal professionals, academics, members of the judiciary, court and tribunal staff. The network is for professionals, rather than litigants in person themselves, and we encourage people to continue to direct LiPs to the existing resources. The site aims to create a sustainable online community in order to stimulate cross-sector dialogue, minimise duplication and encourage knowledge exchange. We hope that through cross-sector networking, collaboration and shared and creative thinking, the ‘Community’ will be stronger and more effective in meeting the needs of LiPs and potential LiPs. We plan to achieve this by:
- Facilitating communication, discussion and sharing of good practice across sectors
- Signposting to resources and projects, to improve awareness of existing tools and to encourage collaboration
- Providing opportunities for engaging with policy and public sector change
The new website will provide a central platform from which to disseminate information on projects, resources, research and other content relating to access to legal advice and the legal system. This includes public legal education, legal aid provisions, pro bono, legal advice and clinics, courts and tribunals, academic research and much more. The network doesn’t represent a single voice and we hope that the majority of material will be written by the network. However, if members are short on time we will be offering a phone-to-blog service involving a short phone call which will allow us to produce a blog on their behalf. Alongside this, there will be a private ‘noticeboard’ area, where members can post questions, make comments and respond directly to other members. A summary of new Network content and noticeboard posts will be circulated to members via a fortnightly newsletter.
We have been working hard over the last three months to ensure that we create a website that is built not just for, but by, the Network. Over 30 interviews and workshops were conducted and we are now in the process of user-testing the website. We have secured funding from the Legal Education Foundation to develop and pilot the platform for a year, with the support of a 3 day a week staff member.
We are hoping to launch the website in March 2017, however before then there are a few things you can do:
- Join the Network: Once the website launches you will be able to sign up at lipnetwork.org.uk, until then please email us (contact details below).
- Contribute content: Please contact us if you are a professional working in the field and would to contribute to the Network. We are looking for content about projects, resources, research, relevant developments and events related to access to justice for those without means. This could be anything from a short blog post on a successful (or unsuccessful) project, to a link to a website, tool or research paper.
- Share: Please feel free to share this or any other information about the Network.
- Feedback: This is a pilot! We are still learning and would love to hear your thoughts.