Welcome to the December edition of the Law for Life newsletter. This issue introduces our newly-appointed Chief Executive, reports on the first of our PLE networking events and highlights a Ministry of Justice report on the real-life experience of people representing themselves in family law cases.
This is my last newsletter as Chief Executive at Law for Life. Best wishes for the future to staff, trustees and all involved in public legal education.
An electrician goes to court
The Ministry of Justice has published the results of research into the experience of people representing themselves in family law cases, so-called ‘Litigants in Person’.
It makes for disturbing reading. The research, which took place before the recent cuts to legal aid, paints a picture of a court system unable to meet the needs of even the most articulate self-represented litigant.
As one of the Litigants in Person who was interviewed, an electrician by trade, eloquently put it:
‘If I walked into a meter room, I could take the systems apart with my eyes closed.
If I walked you in there you wouldn’t know what you were doing. No I wouldn’t, I’d want to give it to you. There you go, there you go. I’d want to give you the screwdriver. (laughs)
Well I walk into that court absolutely blind and knowledgeless of what I was going in to do. You know we’re not all lawyers. The judges are sitting in there, the lawyers are sitting in there and do this job every day and it’s what they’re trained to do. I’m just thrown in there with a blindfold on.’
The report echoes the recommendations of the Law for Life report ‘Meeting the information needs of Litigants in Person
’, in calling for improvements to court forms and better guidance and support for court users.
Read the report:
Caught in the web - young people and the internet
In November Dr Catrina Denvir from the UCL Faculty of Law, launched our series of informal networking events with a presentation on her recent PhD research Caught in the web- how young people resolve civil justice problems.
Dr Denvir studied how school and university students use the internet when presented with a housing or employment problem and asked to find a resolution.
Her results are interesting: no young person went beyond the first page of search results; search terms revealed a lack of understanding of the problem, and few young people search within websites.
Significantly for PLE, internet use increased understanding of legal rights related to the topic being investigated, but that didn’t translate into appropriate action or increased confidence in dealing with the issue. Nor did the experience change young people’s preferred way of handling the problem – family, friends and/or adviser remained highly rated for go-to help, with little appetite displayed for handling problems alone.
Counter-intuitively it seems, a high level of internet access by young people goes along with a low use of the net for problem-solving.
To find out more, read the article on our website: www.lawforlife.org.uk/blog/caught-in-the-web-young-people-and-the-internet/