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Minutes of All Party Group on Public Legal Education, Monday 18 April, 1800 1900, Cttee Room 7

In attendance: Tom Tugendhat MP, Justice Sir Robin Knowles, Richard Susskind,
Lord Low, Amanda Finlay, Janet Walker, Matthew Smerdon (LEF), Ruth Dwight (CF),
Chilli Reid (AdviceUK), Lisa Wintersteiger (L4L), James Sandbach (LAG), Richard
Doughty (Cilex), Rebecca Wilkinson (Law Society), Sarah-Jane Bennet (Bar Council)
The Chair welcomed everyone.
Robin Knowles and Richard Susskind
The group heard from Justice Sir Robin Knowles first who introduced PLE as about
improving legal capability and awareness so that we can better understand "the law
in our lives" and "the law in action." He described PLE as being a "combination of the
constitutional and the intensely practical," as the increasing volume and "raw output"
of legislation meant that it was in the public interest to make every possible initiative
to improve legal capability. Of course there is a debate about the boundary between
PLE and "assisted information and advice," but Robin saw PLE as being about
promoting practical discussions around the law in our lives through associations,
clubs, schools, youth projects, and older peoples' groups as well as other initiatives
like "streetlaw" and self directed online research.
The challenge now is how to scale-up PLE; this will need a strategy engaging the
whole of the legal sector. The professions needed to take a lead and view PLE as
part of being a lawyer," and the aim should be to deliver PLE "at scale". Templates
needed to be put in the hands of the legal professions to make at scale delivery
possible and professions regulators (in line with Legal Services Act objectives)
should do more to encourage the professions to engage in PLE activity. He also
hoped that the Briggs review of civil courts structures could build in public awareness
initiatives into its thinking.
Richard Susskind then addressed the issue of how technology can support PLE.
Technology is transformative, both in terms of reinventing and streamlining legal
processes and improving legal capabilities through developing online "communities
of experience" and self-help resources. Distinguishing between "just in case" and
"just in time" approaches to human learning, Richard argued that today's
technologies will deliver a shift in the way that people engage in legal issues, from
the approach of needing to personally consult "just in case" trained specialists - to
more self-directed "just in time" engagement in legal problem solving strategies.
Crucially, technologies can give us the capacity to spot problems legal problems
before they arise and aid the process of problem recognition, and as technology
develops into areas such as artificial intelligence problem-solving the possibilities are
At the moment technological developments are proceeding in small steps in the legal
and dispute resolution sectors. The Briggs proposals and work to establish an online
court for civil claims is a good example; this will not replace the traditional process of
adjudication but it does enable the legal system to design a process which uses the
adjudication function and judicial time more strategically and appropriately, and to
build in case management tools supported by case officers where necessary. He
referred to the Financial Ombudsman (FOS) process as an approach that could be

followed; FOS deal with half a million complaints against financial services annually
the issues are complex although the online process is reasonable straightforwards. Only 10% actually go before the Ombudsman, and the majority are dealt
with by adjudicators. The site is also a good model of how
ODR can work in practice, and takes users through on a step by step basis.
The discussion/Q&As afterwards focussed on getting the boundary right between
PLE and advice, also a lot of discussion ensued about the just in time approach to
interventions and the contexts in which PLE is most needed.
Finally, the Chair drew attention to the re-launch of the All Party Group on Pro Bono
on May 17th; this will complement the APPG on PLE but will meet separately so as
not to confuse the issues.