Our history

South Westminster Legal Advice Centre was set up in 1998, as there was a pressing need for free, expert legal advice to be available for those who would not otherwise have the means to pay for it. We began as a charitable trust, operating from shop premises at the Victoria end of Vauxhall Bridge Road.

From a standing start, the number of clients seen by SWLAC advisers grew to more than 2,000 per year, and the main constraints suffered were that the premises were too small, and that we were always hungry for more advisers. On 31 December 2018, South Westminster Legal Advice Centre became a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (“CIO”), and is registered with Charity Commission with registered number 1180716.

In March 2020. the premises in Vauxhall Bridge Road were required for re-development, and the CIO moved to London Scottish House, 95 Horseferry Road, London, SW1P 2DX.

We have changed how we work

Our enforced closure during the Covid-19 pandemic has given us the opportunity to review and update how we operate, in order to safeguard both clients and volunteers, and to continue to provide a service of quality, positioned for the future.

In particular, we are re-inventing ourselves to take account of the changed circumstances of both clients and volunteers: many of our client consultations will now be “virtual”. Our drop-in service will change, initially to an appointment-only service, though we aspire to reintroduce drop-in arrangements when possible.

We will have socially-distanced “face to face” consultations, but many will be digital. Some clients might be with us via their smart-phones, but in so many cases, our clients do not have these. In these cases, clients will come to London Scottish House, where the volunteer lawyer – who now may be working from home not the City – may be accessed online.

We have digitised our records and are moving increasingly into this new world where we may be operating for one client from numerous spaces. This is all new and we are determined to embrace these new practical arrangements.