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Bar Council clarifies position on whether law centres are proper lawyers

Statement on coronavirus funding sparks commotion online

The Bar Council has clarified that it does think law centres are proper lawyers after a statement from its leader put some noses seriously out of joint.

Amanda Pinto QC had appeared to distinguish between law centres and “legal practitioners” in a statement about government coronavirus funding.

The bar chief was responding to a government announcement of £5.4 million in emergency coronavirus funding for law centres and other not-for-profit legal advice providers.

Pinto was quoted in Legal Futures as saying that while the money was “good news”, it “should not be seen as a substitute for the specialised expertise that the legal professions provide to members of the public”.

She added:

“Without financial measures to support legal practitioners, particularly self-employed barristers — many of whom are not eligible for the government’s existing support measures — there won’t be a profession with this expertise in a few months.”

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Law Centre Twitter wasn’t impressed. Barrister Miranda Grell pointed out that “Law Centres provide ‘specialised expertise’ and they are ‘legal practitioners’. A Law Centre is not permitted to operate without a Senior Supervising Solicitor!”.

Housing solicitor Giles Peaker, who blogs as Nearly Legal, called it “ignorant, tin eared clap trap”.

The Bar Council press team have now slid into people’s replies to say that no offence was meant.

Pinto’s amended statement now refers to “other legal practitioners” and “the specialised expertise that the legal professions as a whole provide”.

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