Free and accurate legal advice is essential in ensuring that everyone has access to justice. The Poor Man’s Lawyer service at Mansfield House, established in 1891, was one of the first in the UK to offer free legal advice, with the model copied all over the country. The organisation helped inspire today’s legal aid system and Citizens’ Advice.
Barrister Frank Tillyard began the service by holding one session a week, advising on whatever local people needed help with. A committee was set up to assist Tillyard and, over the years many lawyers volunteered their services.
Help for women and children was always a priority, with many cases involving what we now recognise as domestic violence. Female legal advisors were on hand to help in these matters. Tillyard compiled a guide for the National Union of Women Workers, to help female social workers give basic legal advice.
The Legal Aid and Advice Act 1949 founded our current legal aid system which made the Poor Man’s Lawyer at Mansfield House redundant. However, in 1998 Mansfield House set up the First Stop Law Shop providing free legal advice, until it closed in 2001.