A nationwide organisation has been launched to help law firms aid vulnerable New Zealanders who need access to justice.
Legal Aid Providers Aotearoa (LAPA) is the brainchild of Christchurch family lawyer Erin Ebborn, of Ebborn Law, and her CEO Jarrod Coburn.
Ebborn Law has been the country’s largest provider of family legal aid for the past two years and has introduced a number of technological advancements to the profession, including VLaw®: a network of secure video links to women’s refuges across the country.
The cooperative, which will consist of law firms who undertake high levels of legal aid, aims to help members by sharing know-how and skills in areas such as business operations, technology and change management.
"The legal profession is in line for significant disruption," says Erin Ebborn, "Someone needs to kick-off a movement to future-proof law firms. A failure to keep up with the changing environment will have serious consequences for our most vulnerable people: those who need legal aid."
Acting Secretary for the cooperative, Jarrod Coburn, says the organisation is a step toward ensuring legal help is always accessible for low-income clients.
“The legal sector is built on a tradition of integrity, professionalism and doing the right thing,” says Jarrod Coburn, “It must retain those high standards but at the same time change the way it delivers services: adopting newer technologies and modern business paradigms.”
LAPA will be a valuable resource for people who need access to justice, with an 0800 number and website designed to assist in finding a legal aid lawyer quickly.
“Up until now it has been very difficult for the public to identify and locate lawyers committed to delivering legal aid,” says Erin Ebborn, “So the major beneficiaries of this cooperative will be social services and other organisations who work with people on low incomes, and the likes of women’s refuges who regularly seek urgent legal intervention for their clients.”
The organisation has approached 136 law firms across the country that are representative of most urban and rural areas. The first event of LAPA, where membership for the 2017/18 year will be determined, will be held in Christchurch on 1 July 2017.