An urgent call to firms for financial help has been put out by London Legal Support Trust ahead of London Legal Giving Week, which begins on 24 November.
The Trust, which raises funds for free legal advice charities in London and the South East, has made an unusual direct appeal following a 50% drop in funding because of the impact of the pandemic and lockdowns.
It has challenged firms to donate directly to the trust or, for example, to consider redirecting the cash that would otherwise fund their Christmas parties to help fund legal help for the most marginalised.
Frontline legal advice charities have struggled this year to fundraise in the usual way because of events being cancelled.
Their income via legal aid has also been hit because of social distancing requirements and court closures.
With the backing of the Lord Chief Justice and leading judges, the trust has appealed for law firms to help legal advice charities weather the storm.
It says there has been a dramatic increase in the need for legal advice, with many more people facing serious issues including debt, employment, benefits and housing problems.
One charity has seen a 200% surge in demand for its services, with 450 people a day asking for help.
Another reported that its typical caseload (benefits appeals and debt) has been on hold due to government action and it is “fearful that these cases are just on pause and we will face a tsunami when protections are lifted”.
The trust warned that as emergency government funding runs out, these agencies are “facing a stark future”.
The trust’s chief executive, Nezahat Cihan, said: “Ensuring that everyone has access to justice is a key pillar of our legal system.
“This is more important now than ever, as thousands of people are dealing with legal issues for the first time in their lives.
“Over the years, the legal community has been exceedingly generous in supporting the cause of free legal advice.
“We know that we can count on them again in this difficult time.”
If you can help, the trust can be contacted via Nicole Lilauwala at email@example.com