Structure of a law centre
Law centres vary in size and staff make up as follows:-
- The smaller law centres are staffed by a Managing Solicitor Grade II, a Law Clerk/ Legal Clerk, and a Clerical Officer
- Medium sized law centres will be managed by a Managing Solicitor Grade II, with one to three Solicitors – Grade III, a Legal Clerk / Law Clerk, and a number of clerical officers
- The larger law centres are managed by a Managing Solicitor Grade I, with four or more solicitors, a Legal Clerk, and a number of clerical officers.
It should be noted that this staff make up is not ‘cast in stone’ and is subject to change depending on resources and potential efficiencies.
Duties of law centre staff
This section sets out in general the duties of law centre staff. It is not a replacement for the detailed Job Specifications available from Human Resources, but a guide to the general role of each staff member.
Managing Solicitor – Grades I and II
The managing solicitor has full and general responsibility for the provision of legal services in the law centre, through the management of the staff and resources in the law centre. Where there is both a managing solicitor grade I and II appointed to a law centre, the Managing Solicitor Grade I is the manager of the centre while the Grade II assists with the management functions. The managing solicitor manages the staff and physical resources of the centre and is accountable for the general performance of the centre and the provision of professional services in accordance with the relevant legislation and guidelines.
The managing solicitor is a practicing solicitor and will take on clients.
In the case of an office (e.g. the Dolphin House Service) which is not managed by a managing solicitor, the term “managing solicitor” in this Handbook also refers to the manager of such an office.
Solicitor - Grade III
Solicitors - Grade III are responsible for providing an efficient and effective legal service to clients. They give legal advice to those who are eligible and require the Board’s services. They also provide legal aid - representation in courts. They represent clients in court and in certain cases they may retain a barrister to assist and to provide the advocacy services.
The role of the paralegal in the law centre is to assist solicitors in the provision of legal services to the public through direct legal/client output and supporting (administrative functions). Paralegals may assist solicitors in the drawing up of court/legal documentation; take notes at court hearings, and or conducting meetings with and taking attendances from clients.
Clerical officers provide administrative support to ensure the effective operation of the law centre. Clerical officers duties include determining financial eligibility, reception duties, entering information on the computer system, being involved in the applications procedure, typing, answering the phone, sending letters, ordering stationary, doing the post, taking information and other support activities. In smaller law centres, the clerical officer and law/legal clerk should be familiar with each other’s duties and be able to deputise during each other’s temporary absence from the law centre. The clerical officer role is not specifically limited and it may also involve an element of taking information from clients.