Legal support for litigants in person
The Employment Tribunal system permits parties to represent themselves without the assistance of legal support. The system was expressly designed to be user-friendly back in the day when it was known as the Industrial Tribunal. Since then lawyers have rather taken over but that does not mean that it is not possible to represent yourself and to some extent the system is aimed to assist you in doing so.
On 17 November 2023, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) published its final report regarding the Legal Support for Litigants in Person (LSLIP) grant. This followed an interim report in January 2022.
The LSLIP grant was launched in April 2020 by the MoJ and Access to Justice Foundation, to fund a range of earlier intervention services for litigants in person.
Key findings from the final report include:
- Local and regional grants. The majority of advice and support provided by the local and regional grantees was on family, employment, housing and welfare benefits issues. Advice and support was mostly provided at an early stage and was initial and generalist. This suggested that the grant met its objective of increasing access to earlier advice. The programme also enabled some provision of pre-court and at-court support for individuals at the later stages of their legal journey.
- National grants. National grantees (such as LawWorks, Support Through Court and Royal Courts of Justice Advice) delivered a blend of legal advice, practical support and procedural information to people across England and Wales. Most of the support provided was on family, housing and welfare benefits issues, with the exception of Free Legal Answers, which had a high proportion of clients with consumer issues.
- Types of clients. Most clients (61%) were female, 63% of clients were between 25 and 55 years of age and 92% were white. The reported proportion with a disability was 31%, though this may be underreporting as a high number of clients preferred not to disclose this information.
- Improving client outcomes. The early advice and support provided improved outcomes for clients. A very high percentage of clients with legal issues were able to find appropriate assistance locally or nationally, understand their problem and be aware that they might have a legal remedy, and have a greater understanding of the possible legal outcome and the further action that they should take. 59% resolved their problems after support and advice, avoiding the need to go to court or tribunal.
- Partnership working. Partnership working was considered key to delivering the support.
Many law firms will offer free initial advice to someone experiencing employment difficulties. There is a wealth of advice available from Acas and the Citizens Advice Bureau. Some of the larger London firms have free resources available pro bono (for the greater good). If you cannot afford to fund your claim with lawyers from start to finish you might consider investing some fees in setting up your claim correctly – getting advice on your ET1.
Many of the procedural aspects of the tribunal process can be managed without lawyers once you cut through the jargon. If your employer is legally represented, those lawyers must ensure that they deal fairly with you and do not use their legal knowledge to harass you and deter you from pursuing your claim. If an opponent is being heavy-handed, raise it with the judge when you go before the Employment Tribunal. Not everyone has the option to fund legal representation: don’t let this deter you from pursuing justice.
This blog was written by Karen Jackson, MD/Founder of didlaw (2008).