Milk, Bread & Legal Advice? A fortnightly surgery in Tescos allows visitors to add free legal advice to their shopping list.
Although the much-hyped concept of ‘Tesco Law’ failed to gain much steam, Camilla Choudhury-Khawaja, director of legal consultancy The Women’s Lawyer, has created a different version of supermarket law by offering free legal advice in Tesco Extra, Watford.
Choudhury-Khawaja set up the consultancy to help litigants in person with family law and related matters. Described as innovative by the Bar Council and The Law Society Gazette, the entry into Tesco by a barrister is believed to be the first of its kind.
She remarks “We are increasingly aware of the legal aid cuts and the impact of this lack of funding and the resultant loss of access to justice to those who simply cannot afford it. It is both frustrating and upsetting to see people fail in their interpretation of the law, the application of the same and the methods by which to enforce it; not to mention the administrative tasks which thus far only solicitors, practised and trained to deal with, had to address.
The fundamental aim of my practice therefore, as the Women’s Lawyer, is to break down barriers, provide an affordable service in which litigants in persons (men and women alike) are supported and navigated through the maze that is our legal system in a method which will create transparency and allow for people to achieve a fair and just outcome wherever possible. The hourly costs of lawyers are a hurdle many people cannot afford and it should not mean the right to seek justice is only within the reach of those who can
In light of said cuts, it is my opinion the law need be far more accessible, clearer in language and style, ultimately more user-friendly. It can no longer be the preserve of the lawyers and the judiciary alike, we must be seen to be more doing more to help those who need it the most.
It is the procedural tasks of conducting a family matter which the lay person finds most challenging. This can include form filling, ensuring the correct (and I ought to add every increasing) court fees are paid, not to mention court protocol and deadlines are potentially a nightmare. Forms are often returned from the family courts on minor technicalities – the court staff are overworked, the resources are scarce and the result is yet again a further barrier to justice – all bewildering to someone already in the throes of upheaval and upset.”
The surgery was originally run as a one-off event during Legal Awareness Weekend on the 7th & 8th February 2015, with the support of local MP Richard Harrington and Mayor Dorothy Thornhill. During the weekend Choudhury-Khawaja was supported by six former clients; advice was given, forms were explained and emailed and guidance and precedents were provided.
The reaction at the surgery was exceptional. It became clear from queries linked to co-habitational breakdown that the (mis)concept of the common law husband/wife still exists among the public. There was also a lack of knowledge in relation to the availability of legal aid. Several people were not aware that it no longer exists for those in family law. The success therefore of the weekend was in raising awareness of issues, as well as the advice provided.
In light of the weekend’s success, The Women’s Lawyer now continues to provide the legal surgery on a pro bono basis every other Thursday morning.
The surgery offers advice on:
- Family Law
- Relationship Breakdown & Divorce
- Money & Property
- Children – all Private Law matters
More details can be found here.
Camilla Choudhury-Khawaja is a Direct Access Accredited Barrister, called to the Bar of England and Wales in 1998 by The Honourable Society of Gray’s Inn. With over fifteen years’ experience of lecturing and advising clients on varying areas of law she set up the legal consultancy, The Women’s Lawyer (TWL), in 2012 with the fundamental aim of assisting women with an affordable and approachable service. TWL provides legal advice and assistance in the form of a legal consultancy to those who are acting as litigants in person, with a focus upon divorce and relationship breakdown.
Choudhury-Khawaja also delivers legal advice on the radio and hopes to move into television soon, with the aim of raising awareness of people’s legal rights and duties in a wider capacity.
Find out more at http://www.thewomenslawyer.co.uk/
Follow Camilla on Twitter: @TheWomensLawyer