The founder of Ask Law 24 explains why affordable access to lawyers is more important than ever.
This article first appeared on Your Money.
Lawyers and high fees often go hand in hand but a new online service is hoping to revolutionise the way legal advice is paid for in the UK.
Ask Law 24 provides consumers in England and Wales with tailored advice from qualified barristers for £99 including VAT per enquiry.
There are no face-to-face meetings and all advice is drafted online. Users are asked to fill in an instruction form and attach any relevant documents. They pay the fixed fee and get fully drafted legal advice from a practising and fully regulated barrister within ten working days.
Solicitor and founder Andrew Isitt claims the panel of barristers can, in principle, cater for any type of legal query, but the most common are around family and employment matters.
He is careful to point out that the site is not a replacement to traditional legal advice, rather an alternative for people who consider visiting a solicitor "costly and time consuming".
The website comes to market just months after controversial legal aid cuts which are believed to have left well over a million people without access to advice and legal representation.
Islitt believes it is up to lawyers to respond by providing "innovative and affordable" ways for clients to access high quality advice.
The cuts to legal aid, which mean many people will no longer be able to seek advice from a lawyer regarding divorce, child contact, welfare benefits and employment issues, were met with a barrage of criticism.
Citizens Advice chief executive Gillian Guy said: "The number of legal firms capable of delivering advice could be drastically reduced and leave innocent, desperate people stranded in justice deserts."
Meanwhile, the Legal Action Group said the cuts would "create greater misery for many vulnerable people."
The Law Society which represents solicitors in England and Wales said it is keen for its members to respond positively to consumers' wish for choice on fees.
However, its chief executive Desmond Hudson said fixed fee services will not be the right choice in all cases and warns consumers to remain vigilant.
"Cheap services that appear too good to be true generally are just that. Consumers should seek recommendations about the best solicitors in their area or for their legal issue, who are trusted for their skill, expertise and value for money," he says.
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