Access to Justice Foundation

Access to Justice Foundation calls on firms to make risk-free donations using residual funds

Over the last two years, conveyancers have been working tirelessly under unprecedented pressure. They have strived to ensure that their clients were able to complete their home purchases whilst dealing with the impact of COVID on their own lives, and working under increased pressures brought on by massive transaction increases experienced during the pandemic, due partly to the Stamp Duty Land Tax holiday deadlines.

Conveyancers are acutely aware of the positivity felt by clients, as they hand over keys to properties, letting them take the next step forward into a positive future. Likewise, when things go wrong, they are often looked to as the calm head, steering others effectively through the storm.

The strain faced by the industry was severe, and should not be underestimated, but could there be a little-known feelgood factor that conveyancing firms are not taking advantage of as of yet? According to the Access to Justice Foundation, there is.

Using an ever-appropriate housing metaphor, seeing a family’s life changed for the better on popular home makeover shows can be very uplifting. A viewer can often find themselves wondering: “If only I had trade skills like that, I would be able to volunteer and help too, wouldn’t I?”

The fact is, a person does not need to be a carpenter, plumber, or plasterer to support lifechanging action like this. Conveyancers are perfectly placed to help change someone’s life for the better. They can do this by supporting the Free Legal Advice Sector, a sector that is already at breaking point.

With already insufficient investment and funding, and ever fewer resources, free legal support provision is extremely fragile and inconsistent across the UK, and frontline charities are forced to deal with increasing calls for urgent assistance. Advice deserts are a growing concern, and many people – denied the timely legal support they so desperately need – are falling through the cracks, and losing their homes, jobs, health, and families in the process.

Conveyancers do not need to become pro bono workers or free advice providers to throw these people a lifeline either. There is another way that conveyancing firms can make a maximal impact, that saves them time, improves their compliance and efficiency, and is completely risk free.

Your firm can help the Access to Justice Foundation deliver essential funding to support the free legal advice charities who are working tirelessly to improve the lives, health, and wellbeing of the most vulnerable people in your community, by saving their homes, jobs, livelihoods, and families.

The Foundation only needs your firm to do one thing. If residual client balances are found when reviewing client account balance ledgers, that cannot be returned to a client despite your reasonable efforts, please choose to donate them to the Access to Justice Foundation.

Donations of this kind are permitted by SRA Account Rules and clearing these balances to prevent their being held for longer than necessary meets compliance guidelines. An SRA-approved indemnity is available with respect to donations, making your donation risk-free. The Foundation will put the funds to active use and, should a client later be traced, the indemnified donations can be returned to your firm.

People who do not have the financial means deserve to be heard, exercise their rights, challenge discrimination, and hold decision-makers to account. Your firm’s residual balances could be the reason more of them get the opportunity to do so.

Your risk-free donations help make sure people in your community, who are facing the most challenging times, can finally get access to free specialist legal advice and guidance when they need it most.

As another donor whose law firm gave their residual balances to the Foundation put it: “If the legal sector does not help support people to gain access to justice, who will?”

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