Northamptonians are being invited to join legal professionals on a charity walk to support free legal advice services in the region.
Around 100 people are expected to take part in the Northampton Legal Walk on April 30, including members of the legal community and the county.
Participants will include teams from law firms, barristers’ chambers, in-house legal departments and the University of Northampton, as well as residents, who are being encouraged to sign up.
Dominic Hopkins, a partner at law firm Hewitsons, which has been supporting the event since the first Northampton Legal Walk, is one of a number of partners and staff at the firm who will be taking part in the walk.
“Recent funding cuts have put immense pressure on those organisations that provide vital free legal advice services in Northampton and the surrounding areas. As a result, many have had to close, while others are fighting to survive," said Mr Hopkins, who is also the county’s Under Sheriff.
“This leaves some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in society with no alternative other than to either pay for legal advice themselves, or do without. A just society really must be able to provide access to justice for everyone, regardless of wealth or background.
“We hope legal professionals and other members of the public will join us in walking for this important cause.”
He added: “This year, we are also delighted to be able to involve The Good Loaf, a charity that has been helping many vulnerable women in the county to build confidence and find their feet.”
The annual event – now in its sixth year – is organised by the Midlands Legal Support Trust (MLST), which makes grants to Midlands organisations that offer free legal advice, providing access to justice to those who cannot otherwise afford it.
All sponsorship money will go towards the trust’s work, helping fund services such as legal advice helplines, walk-in centres and courthouse advocacy desks.
Many of the region’s poorest and most vulnerable rely upon these services when dealing with issues ranging from benefits and housing to family law and domestic abuse.
The 10-kilometre walk will set off at 5.30pm from the Northampton Combined Court Centre, in St Lady’s Lane. It will end at the Northampton office of law firm Hewitsons.
At Hewitsons’ office, in Billing Road, participants will be welcomed with a drinks and sandwiches reception. Food will be provided by local artisan bakery and social enterprise The Good Loaf, an organisation that aims to provide employment opportunities for vulnerable women to help break the poverty cycle.
Last year’s Northampton Legal Walk raised more than £2,600 for MLST. This year, organisers are hoping to smash that total by reaching £4,000 – enough for up to four grants.
MLST chairperson Nicola Preston said: “In the current harsh economic climate, the need for funds for legal advice is ever-increasing, especially as pre-existent sources are diminished, restricted or even extinguished.
“In our 10th year, we continue to be passionate about doing what we can to ensure that legal advice and support is available to everyone.
“We would like to thank the community of Northamptonshire – in particular Hewitsons law firm – for supporting the Northampton Legal Walk and access to justice for all.”
To register to take part in this year’s Northampton Legal Walk, visit www.mlst.org.uk/northampton-legal-walk.
To sponsor the Hewitsons team, visit their fundraising page.