Legal advice without the bill

FOR those in the community requiring legal advice, the Citizens Advice Bureau and its team of volunteer lawyers are there to assist, without the bill. The independent and non-profit CAB service provides advice and information relating to most areas of law and a specialist referral service for worthy pro-bono cases. It is an invaluable first point of contact for those who have little knowledge or no experience of the legal system. Initial advice is provided on issues as diverse as family breakdown, child access, consumer problems associated with faulty goods and services, vehicle accidents, bad debt, and even fencing disputes between neighbours. Case work is not provided by CAB, however its trained volunteers will prepare administrative documents such as probate, and provide general information and referral services. Lawyers offer services including simple wills, powers of attorney and family court documents for a small fee. Principal solicitor and full-time staff member Rex George left private practice two years ago to join the Perth city bureau. His day is divided between dealing with matters such as family law, estates, simple wills and probate, debt issues and neighbourhood disputes. Mr George said CAB provided a service that made the law more accessible to those who could not afford representation. A team of legal volunteers is rostered fortnightly and pro-bono lawyers are at hand to assist those people who do not qualify for Legal Aid representation due to means testing. One man helping the Barrack Street bureau with a growing demand for its legal services is barrister Andrew Monisse, who volunteers an afternoon every fortnight. With a background in criminal law, Mr Monisse assists clients charged with driving offences, assaults, theft, Police Act offences, restraining orders and fraud. Mr Monisse was approached several years ago by the bureau’s full-time lawyers to volunteer and has enjoyed helping out ever since. “The Citizens Advice Bureau provides an extremely valuable service to the community and I have a great respect and admiration for the work performed by their two full-time lawyers, Rex George and Rachel Lewis,” he said. Within his allocated time, Mr Monisse can give advice for up to six people in one session and would refer them to Legal Aid for representation in worthy cases. There are nine CAB branches throughout the state. The CAB head office can provide mediation services to resolve disputes before they reach court.

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