Audley Chaucer Pro Bono Initiative
We are pleased to administer the Audley Chaucer Pro Bono Initiative. This scheme has been made possible by the generous financial and time sponsorship and commitment by John Szepietowski. John Szepietowski is a highly experienced solicitor who during his long career, has been involved in a wide range of diverse and complex legal cases including success in the Supreme Court. He has successfully represented a number of high-profile celebrities, as well as capital raising hundreds of millions of pounds for corporate clients. John Szepietowski wishes to share his success with those less fortunate and able in a positive and proactive manner by sponsoring this initiative.
We have a commitment to justice for all and believe that financial circumstances should not be a barrier to achieving the outcome you deserve. We are therefore proud to offer a range of legal services for low or no fees.
Our Initiative covers a wide range of legal services and it aims to fill the gap caused by cuts to Legal Aid.
Whether we act pro-bono will be decided on a case-by-case basis and is designed to help those most in need.
Even if we cannot provide help ourselves, we will try and connect you with those individuals and organisations who may be better placed to assist.
We can offer free pre-engagement advice on your matter to assess the current situation and decide on the best way in which we could help you. We can review your documentation and give you an overview of your options in ‘non-legalese’. Sometimes all you need is a friendly voice to explain the matter, and this may mean lawyers do not have to be involved at all.
However, we understand that not all matters can be resolved simply, and further action needs to be taken.
We cover all areas of law, and below are a few of our practice areas. Even if a sector is not listed below, please contact our office to discuss your case.
We are able to assist with all matters relating to divorce, from issuing proceedings to financial orders and determining custody of children. We would always aim to procure the best possible outcome for you and your family.
We are also able to give guidance on mediation and other forms of dispute resolution where court proceedings are unnecessary and undesirable. You may also be able to obtain a voucher towards the cost of mediation if the dispute or application, whether or not financial in nature, relates to a child.
Legal aid is available for family matters involving domestic violence or abuse, but we are also prepared to act for you in these cases, with the appropriate level of sensitivity and care you would expect.
We have recently provided pro-bono assistance with filing for divorce and completing schedules of assets. We have also drafted communications between parties to propose childcare arrangements and have conducted preparatory work for mediation.
With any dispute with your employer, the prospect of undertaking legal action can be daunting. Legal aid for employment tribunal claims is limited to discrimination claims only, but we know that grievances can arise from all sorts of issues.
You may have a serious concern about a health and safety issue in the workplace but feel unable to speak out. You may be suffering abuse of harassment but feel that you cannot act for fear of reprisals. We at Audley Chaucer have experience in all types of employment claims and are here to guide you through the process.
We can provide you with a full service of care, from the initial conciliation process with ACAS through to the final hearing at the Employment Tribunals.
Firstly, we would work with you to set out the grounds of your claim and engage with the other side to try and achieve an agreement. Should this prove unsuccessful, we would assist with drafting the relevant forms for a claim in the employment tribunals and arrange for you to be represented at every step of the way.
We have previously worked on a pro-bono basis for claims involving sex and gender discrimination and have built extensive cases and submissions against redundancy. We have experience in drafting and revising settlement agreements and internal appeals.
Whether it is family reunification or visa applications, we are able to provide a dedicated and thorough service. We would present your case in a clear, concise, and coherent manner, and liaise with the Home Office and other agencies on your behalf.
We aim to take the stress out of what would otherwise be a lengthy and paperwork-heavy process, by taking the time to listen to your situation and then asking the right questions to complete all of the relevant forms.
Our most recent pro-bono success was in ensuring a family man was able to return to the UK to be with his children on an extended visa. We also have wide-ranging knowledge of the EU and pre-Settlement Scheme, as well as Exceptional Assurance Requests.
Welfare & Benefits
It is always disappointing and difficult to receive notification that payments on which you rely, such as Personal Independent Payments (PIPs), Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and Universal Credit, are no longer available to you. You may feel that this is unfair, and that your situation has not been assessed properly.
Many claims against the Home Office relating to benefits and other welfare payments are successful on appeal, and we are able to be the support you need to complete an appeal claim.
We would assist with completing the forms necessary for an appeal to the Tribunal, and aid with gathering evidence, rebutting the other side’s findings. We would make sure your voice is properly represented.
There is little more important that ensuring you have a roof over your head and security for both yourself and your family.
We are able to assist with a wide range of matters, such as helping you to own your own home. We can advise on Right to Buy and Right to Acquire, as well as Leasehold Extensions and Leaseholder Enfranchisement. We can liaise with your private landlord, Local Authority, or Housing Association to ensure the process is as smooth as possible.
We can also help when you house is in disrepair and you need to raise this with the landlord, and with judicial review cases, challenging the decisions of local authorities.
If you are a charity working in the local Greater London Community, we would love to hear from you. We are keen to play an integral role in our community and to engage with worthwhile projects.
Running a not-for-profit business still can give rise to legal issues, and we believe generous donations from the public should go towards good causes rather than on legal fees. We can assist your charity on either a ‘one-off’ basis or on a longer retainer.
‘One-off’ or ‘ad hoc’ work would include services such as drafting a contract, updating company documents, and arranging leases and purchases of property. Longer-term work would involve reviewing documentation such as employee handbooks and workplace procedures, acting in litigation and assisting with compliance and other regulatory work.
Most recently we have assisted a Rescue Dogs charity with adoption agreements and cross-jurisdictional deed formalities. We have also advised on the setting up of a new charity to gain accreditation with the Charity Commissioners. We have also provided tenancy advice to a local affordable-housing charity. No task is too big nor too small.
Why do I not qualify for Legal Aid?
To qualify for legal aid for civil (non-criminal) work, you must pass both a means and a merits test. Regarding means (as of May 2021), your gross monthly income must not be more than £2,657, and net income no more than £733 per month. If you have a partner, usually your income will be aggregated with theirs. You must have savings of less than £8,000, or £3,000 in certain immigration cases.
The merits test is judged on an objective standard. A claim must have a ‘Very good’ to ‘Moderate’ chance of success. For claims classified as ‘Borderline’ or ‘Marginal’ (45% – 50% chance of success), Legal Aid is only available where there is a wider public interest or is of great significance to the individual, such as risk of homelessness and/or deprivation of liberty.
Criminal cases are still covered by Legal Aid in most cases unless there are exceptional circumstances. If you have been turned down by Legal Aid and are undergoing a criminal matter, please contact our office where we will be ready to review your case to see if we can assist.
John Szepietowski has a particular interest in working with and helping those with special needs. He is happy to provide free of charge assistance with legal requirements that can include educational issues, special educational needs statements (SENs), Powers of Attorney for health and welfare and property and financial matters, problems with care homes and dealing with recovering grants and local authority fees and payments. Recently, he assisted by intervening over a weekend to represent a patient on a life support unit where the hospital staff wanted to place a “Do Not Resuscitate” notice on a COVID patient. John Szepietowski worked with the hospital staff and their solicitors over the weekend to ensure that the patient was kept on life support. Some three weeks later, the patient was sitting upright and feeding himself again. His life was entirely down to the swift and forceful intervention by John Szepietowski who carried out this work pro bono.