The Law Society of Scotland is to carry out research on access to legal advice and services in Scotland following a decade of austerity.

The Law Society’s Access to Justice Committee is undertaking two projects which will examine the use of alternative dispute resolution (ADR), which allows people to resolve disputes without going to court, and assess the level of pro bono legal advice provided in Scotland. Jim Stephenson, convener of the Law Society of Scotland Access to Justice committee, said: “Through a decade of austerity, the landscape for access to justice in Scotland has changed significantly. At this stage, we think it’s important to take stock, to review and, where possible, to make recommendations for improvement and promotion of best practice in these two key areas.”

The Law Society has launched two online surveys inviting solicitors and others in the legal community to share their views. The ADR survey and pro bono survey both run from 28 February to 8 April. Jim Stephenson said: “The number of civil cases progressing through courts in Scotland has declined significantly in the last decade. ADR is increasingly encouraged, for instance, as part of the process for simple procedure cases. We are interested in finding out whether ADR is increasing, how service provision varies across the country, and views from providers and users of ADR on how services can be promoted and improved. We are also keen to discover how technology could be used to assist these services.

“Regarding pro bono work, we know that large numbers of solicitors and law students volunteer their expertise and time to help people with legal problems. This is often done through formal programmes, such as firms’ CSR work or university law clinics, and often at individuals’ own initiative. We are interested in finding out more about what services are available across Scotland, how these can be recognised and promoted. Pro bono can never be a substitute for an effective system of legal aid, though we are keen to explore how people providing advice can be supported with their volunteering.

The Law Society will also contact stakeholders providing ADR and pro bono work to understand more around the services currently available in addition to inviting responses to each of the online surveys. Follow up roundtable events for these projects will take place in spring and summer 2019 and the Committee will report on its findings later in the year.

Take part in the ADR survey

Take part in the pro bono survey

Responses are also welcomed by email to accesstojustice@lawscot.org.uk