Temple Legal Centre (TLC) is one of the few, if not only, dedicated legal advice centre offering family advice from qualified practitioners and representation for clients with any type of family issue save for Court of Protection and child maintenance. TLC has clinics in London and Liverpool.
TLC was founded by Leanne Targett-Parker, a family barrister, in July 2013, in response to the significant and far-reaching cuts in legal aid, particularly in the family courts, enforced by the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO). TLC was concerned about how the persons who were previously eligible for legal aid would address their family issues without being provided with legal advice. It is well known now that litigants in person have a detrimental effect on court resources, through no fault of their own, in light of not having access to justice.
TLC’s clients are referred to it by the PSU, Citizens’ Advice, local advice centres and the family courts. Clients also find TLC through its website and the internet. There is a basic means test, which is regularly reviewed, to ensure that as many persons as possible are offered free advice.
Initially, TLC worked from the Chambers of Michael Harris (10KBW) in London as Leanne was a tenant and now a door tenant there. In 2017, TLC moved to The Honourable Society of Inner Temple (Inner Temple) with Inner Temple offering TLC a permanent home. However, due to the current building redevelopment at Inner Temple, TLC is holding clinics at Lincoln’s Inn and Middle Temple. In Liverpool, TLC is hosted by 7 Harrington Street Chambers, where Leanne is a tenant. TLC wishes to thank 10KBW, the Inns and 7 Harrington Street as without them TLC could not start up or provide its services.
After about 18 months of setting up TLC, it was clear that TLC needed to go progress and took on a part-time administrator, Willow Oddie, to assist Leanne in managing administration and running more regular clinics. In 2017, Willow became the director of TLC, however left in August 2018, to become a teacher and Andrew Brown now fills the role of director.
TLC applied for charitable status, which was granted in January 2017 with the following objectives:
- To promote, for the public benefit, the sound administration of the law particularly, though not exclusively, by providing legal advice and assistance in family matters to individuals who are unable to secure such services from their own resources; and
- To provide, for the benefit of the public, assistance through conciliation and mediation for families whose relationships appear to be breaking down, and where such relationships have already broken down, to advise and help in the settlement of differences or potential differences over associated matters such as custody and access to children, and other family matters.
TLC has a Board of Trustees, currently consisting of lawyers and non-lawyers with Leanne as the Chair of the Board of Trustees. TLC is always looking for new trustees and currently with accountancy, marketing and/or IT skills.
TLC has 2 patrons with Baroness Butler-Sloss as its legal patron and Gillian Anderson, the actress, as its non-legal patron.
TLC has a number of advisors and volunteers who are unremunerated. All advisors are qualified solicitors or barristers experienced in family law. All volunteers are persons interested in the law and in particular family law. They are students, paralegals, trainees or pupils. TLC provides hands on training and mentoring to its volunteers.
TLC hold clinics fortnightly in London at offices at Lincoln’s Inn or the Library at Middle Temple and fortnightly in Liverpool at 7 Harrington Street Chambers between 6-9pm. Clients have a 30 minute, pre-booked appointment with an advisor with a volunteer to assist. The advice provided can take the form of supporting and advising on upcoming hearings, advising on and assisting with applications, assisting with responding to documents either from the other party/ies and/or court orders and general advice for potential situations such as relations ending and how issues such as finances and the children are resolved without resulting to court proceedings. Further appointments are offered on a necessary and proportionate basis. It is often the case if the client is failing to action advice and the sessions are repeating previous advice then a review will be undertaken on that client for a further request for a further appointment/s. Although there is a policy of providing up to 3 sessions, this is undertaken on a pragmatic basis and often more sessions are provided due to the need and/or vulnerability of the client.
A mother, who had had her children removed, sought advice at the Citizens’ Advice at the RCJ and was referred to TLC. The mother wished to appeal the care order however her solicitor deemed her grounds with little or no prospect of success and therefore she lost her public funding and lodged the appeal at the Court of Appeal herself. After TLC took on her case, and being granted permission to appeal, legal aid was reinstated however not until after the substantive decision. At the substantive decision, where TLC represented the Mother, the Court of Appeal, in particular Lord Justice MacFarlane, praised TLC for representing the Mother who would not have been successful had she not been represented by TLC.
A mother whose children, one with special needs, lived with the father and his new wife had supervised contact quarterly with both children though the elder son was over 18. The mother sought advice from TLC on the basis she wished for her contact (in the last year) to be very close to the son’s birthday as this was his 17th birthday, she had never had contact on or near his birthday and this was last one where the contact order was enforceable. The father and his wife refuses this due to the proximity of the last contact, the distress changing arrangements for the son would be and that there were other arrangements in place already for the son’s birthday and the days leading up to it. TLC assisted in drafting the urgent, without notice, application and though TLC was unable to provide representation for the hearings listed prepared position statements for the 2 hearings. At the first hearing, the Judge granted the order sought and relisted the return date the day before the son’s birthday. The father continued to oppose this and instructed (as he had done throughout the proceedings) a high profile and expensive firm of solicitors and extremely experienced Counsel. The judge discharged the order for contact made 3 days earlier in favour of the father’s position. Despite the assistance provided to the mother, she had to represent herself against a highly experienced counsel and was ultimately at a disadvantage due to lack of funds to be represented.
Hackney night shelter refers clients to TLC and their residents are in a more desperate situation than many of TLC’s clients. One client was homeless despite jointly owning a mortgage free property in Wales with his estranged wife. The parties split up and the client was asked to leave the former matrimonial home. He returned to London where he had lived for most of his life, was unable to find work and ended up sleeping rough. He was unable to secure benefits as he had the asset of the FMH, however without legal advice on how to issue a petition and a subsequent application for financial remedy he was unable to resolve these issues and get himself back on his feet by being able to rent a property and hopefully find work. TLC advised the client on what his rights were, how he could issue a divorce petition and an application for financial remedy. Further, the client was not having contact with the teenage children due to lack of funds to return to Wales and having nowhere to stay when there and not even having the funds to send a Christmas card. TLC provided the client with 2 boxes of notelets and a book of stamps so that he could at least write to the children.
A current TLC client is a war veteran from the Balkans with significant PTSD. He is facing a final hearing for a Non-Molestation Order against him without English being his second language and no understanding of the legal system. He has been advised by TLC and provided with representation for the final hearing. Preparation for the final hearing includes liaising with the court, especially as the applicant is a litigant in person and with the police to obtain police disclosure.
Many of TLC’s clients are unable to comprehend what is required with regards to the correct forms to use, how to complete them or where to send them. For many clients English is not their first language and there are often other issues such as drug and alcohol issues and/or mental health issues. Many of TLC’s clients are vulnerable and therefore being a litigant in person is all the more stressful.
TLC is currently funded by a generous 3-year grant from The Fore (The Bulldog Trust), which concludes in 2020. This provides funding for the director’s salary, projects such as a new logo and website and other expenses such as telephone, website and insurance. TLC’s only income is from grants and donations and assistance with funding is also needed.
In the period of June 2018-June 2019, TLC increased its sessions provided by 24% and this was before opening the Liverpool clinic. TLC increased clients provided with advice in the same period by 47% and additionally there were clients who, due to their vulnerabilities or caring responsibilities, were provided with email and telephone advice as they were unable to get to clinics.
The trustees, advisors and volunteers are dedicated individuals who give up their own time to support and assist TLC.
TLC is always looking for additional advisors (need to be qualified and experienced family practitioners), volunteers, funding and for people to spread the word about TLC so that more organisations and clients are aware of the services TLC offers and therefore ensuring that TLC can provide advice and representation to as many people as who need it.
TLC’s main aim is to provide a clinic in at least every circuit in England & Wales but hopefully in every area with family courts.
If you are interested in being involved with TLC please do not hesitate to contact Leanne on firstname.lastname@example.org or on 07525 168400.
Founder and Chair of the Board of Trustees
Temple Legal Centre