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05 August 2015 – By James Greenland
Lawyers wanting pro-bono work are being sought by a website that offers free legal advice.
The site, www.lawspot.org, provides answers to Kiwis’ legal questions by linking them with lawyers, both from community law centres and firms offering pro-bono services.
Questions submitted to the website have involved issues ranging from employment law: “can my employer demand a medical certificate for unpaid sick leave”, to consumer rights: “does a dentist need to replace a filling if it falls out”, and the perennial pub discussion: “is it illegal to ride a bike while intoxicated”.
LawSpot is a charitable trust founded in 2012 in partnership with the Wellington and Hutt Valley Community Law Centres. Its mission is to “empower everyday New Zealanders by providing greater access to the law and legal services in general”.
Originally staffed by volunteer lawyers from the Wellington Centre, the site quickly outgrew its resources receiving more than 50,000 site visits and 5,000 questions in its first six months, says lawyer and LawSpot CEO Nick Mereu.
“As well as requests for community legal advice, LawSpot started receiving many questions that were outside of its community law focus. We had questions from large family trusts about trust property and from small business about employment disputes” says Mr Mereu.
He says LawSpot has now partnered with community law centres and law firms across the country to better meet the high user demand. A newly renovated LawSpot website will officially launch in September 2015.
When a question falls outside of LawSpot’s community focus, or is unable to be adequately answered in a community law context, it will be referred directly to one of LawSpot’s partner lawyers, he says.
Advice generally relates to employment, tenancy, family and relationship property, criminal, and wills, trusts, and estates areas of law, but LawSpot also strives to answer other legal questions commonly asked by New Zealanders, such as consumer rights, driving and traffic regulations, and property law.
“We’re constantly on the lookout for new partners,” says Mr Mereu.