Select Committee on Armed Forces Minutes of Evidence



  Approximately five years ago a number of like-minded Solicitors got together to explore the possibility of setting up a Network of independent Solicitors who could offer a specialist service to members of all three Armed Forces. The idea gained momentum and a number of firms nationwide became interested in the concept.

  There has been a long gestation period for the Network which has involved much thought and which has grown substantially over recent years.

(a)  A skilled Legal Service for Members of the Armed Forces

  One of our aims is to create a Network of firms whose members can be expected to offer a degree of expertise in dealing with the problems of Service personnel that might not so easily be found elsewhere.

  A member firm of the Network should have staff with a proven track record in dealing with the problems of Service Personnel, typically these would include assisting with investigations by Forces or Civil Police; Courts Martial and Standing Civilian Courts; Wills; Redresses of complaint, the problems encountered by Service Personnel (especially abroad) in conveyancing and property matters and claims for personal injury against the Ministry of Defence.

(b)  Accessibility

  It is hoped that what the Network offers to the Service person should be regarded as an additional choice to those that he or she already has. We aim to make that choice as accessible as possible. To achieve this ease of access we have commissioned a Lo Call number which is being advertised and can be seen on our brochures. On telephoning the number (which is possible 24 hours a day, seven days a week) the problem will immediately be referred to a member of the Network who will than contact the Service person requiring help and take the matter from there. The first 30 minutes of legal help will be without any charge and we do not anticipate that any member firm will proceed to charge the Service person until a clear understanding of what the charge will amount to has been established. In cases of assistance to deal with an interview by Services or Civilian Police there will be no charge for the professional work carried out throughout the interview.

(c)  A Forum

  The Network will provide a forum for the discussion of topics of current interest and where possible, the resolution of problems. It is hoped that appropriate representatives of the Armed Forces and other agencies (eg. SSAFA) might become involved as well as some members of Parliament and there has already been a most encouraging response in this respect and it should be possible for all concerned to focus on problems which might arise. Answers to some might actually be found through mutual discussion. Other problem areas might be identified as being a suitable subject for further legislation or administrative attention.

(d)  Consultation

  We can foresee that the Network might become a body which would be consulted by the Government and other rule making authorities in the hope that any proposed legislation or changes in the administrative rules would address problems properly so that the changes will make things better rather than worse!

(e)  Pressure Group

  Should the Network's collective experience demonstrate that there is a particular need for some general problem to be addressed, it will hope to open a channel of communication with the legislature with a view to bringing about any changes that might appear necessary.

(f)  Professional Services Standards

  The group will seek to maintain and enhance the standards of professional service that it can offer members of the Armed Forces which it will seek to do by—

    (1)  careful vetting of any new applicants for membership of the group; and

    (2)  the expulsion of any member of the group whose service, in the opinion of the Network, falls substantially below standard. (These functions will be discharged on behalf of the Network by its Committee.)

(g)  Marketing

  The members will seek to market their professional services throughout their membership of the Network and their contributions to it.

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