National Volunteer Week: I get great satisfaction from the volunteering I do with FLAC
15 May 2018
"Sometimes I find that people can be a little wary of the formal setting of a solicitor’s office. They aren’t sure where the first stop should be in tackling a problem or pressing matter they have. This is where FLAC (Free Legal Advice Centres) clinics come in."
Ciaran Moloney is a qualified solicitor and for two years regularly volunteered at FLAC’s weekly clinic in Crumlin. Every Wednesday evening from 7pm-9:30pm three legal professionals give their time and expertise to guide and advise people around any legal problems they have.
The need for the service is evident explains Ciaran;
“Every time when I come to the FLAC clinic there’s a large queue outside of people waiting for a consultation. Each meeting lasts about 15-20 minutes, so an average, I’d see about 5 or 6 people per evening.
There’s always such a diverse range of attendees at the clinics. We have people from all social backgrounds, young and old, men and women. We also get parents seeking advice on behalf of their children.
The range of queries we receive is equally varied. Although, I’d say that family law matters are probably the most common. Questions surrounding sensitive matters such as divorce, separation, custody issues and access to children are regular issues which crop up.
Often you’re dealing with emotional situations, so you have to show a compassionate side as well as outlining the legal aspects.
I’d also often deal with consumer law queries. These would include topics like purchase of faulty goods or substandard work by a tradesperson on your home. For instance, I recently dealt with a small business owner who was unhappy with the work their accountant was doing. In this case, I advised the owner to get in touch with the professional accountancy body.
In fact, often you’re advising people of their statutory rights and informing them that there are a range of state bodies that can help them. There are agencies such as Residential Tenancies Board, the Workplace Relations Commission and the Social Welfare Appeals Office who will ensure that you if you’ve been unfairly treated, you’ll get justice.
People aren’t always familiar with these organisations so sometimes it can be as simple as explaining to them what they do and referring them. The acknowledgement that you’ve been treated poorly, that there’s help out there and that here’s how to go about it, gives people great peace of mind.
Sometimes, the situation might be more complex, in these instances you outline the legal framework and advise them to seek a solicitor to work on their behalf.
I must say that I get great satisfaction from the volunteering I do with FLAC. On occasions, you can almost see the worry on people’s faces when they come into your office. It’s clear that an issue is having a hugely stressful impact on their lives. But once you’ve explained the situation and advised a resolution, you can tell a weight has been lifted. This is hugely gratifying.
I’d encourage any barrister or solicitor out there to contact FLAC and sign up as a volunteer. You’ll get some much out of it while making a genuine difference in people’s lives. What’s more, you’ll become a better lawyer for it too."
FLAC’s advice clinics are part of its core objective of promoting access to justice.