Stuart Gentle Publisher at Onrec

Virtualawyer site launches - 11/2000

Free law site launches

Freelawyer, the new website set to revolutionise access to law for the ordinary citizen, has launched. The launch was announced simultaneously along with new consumer research, which highlighted a low awareness of legal rights and an urgent need for better, cost-effective legal information for non-lawyers.

It aims to reform access to justice and provide value for money by offering tailor-made legal information on literally thousands of scenarios, free of charge. The user chooses the relevant area of law, for example, employment, and responds to a series of questions posed by a 'virtualawyer'. He or she is then provided with a tailored legal information sheet containing free information specific to his/her enquiry and the facts provided, including guidance on where to find specialist solicitors in their area to take the matter further.

Freelawyer's 'virtualawyer' for employment issues, Tanya, provides legal information for both employees and employers and covers scenarios including unfair dismissal, discrimination, redundancy, trade unions, maternity rights and family friendly policies. Cost and access were key factors in this with 94% of respondents regarding the law as too slow, too expensive and too inaccessible to be of use to the individual.
Leon de Costa, chief executive, Freelawyer said: The diminution of legal aid has coincided with an increased demand for legal services, both by private individuals and small businesses. There has never been a greater need for quick, jargon-free legal information.

He added: Whilst Freelawyer is not a substitute for a real solicitor, it does go to the very heart of concerns about access to justice. The court system is currently buckling under pressures of delay and complexity and the time is ripe for technology to take some of the burden. Freelawyer aims to de-mystify the law and empower people in a way that has never been attempted or possible before.

Users are assured anonymity throughout and are not required to leave any personal details. The site will initially cover employment, housing, motoring, and family. Consumer and personal injury law will follow in the next few weeks.