Free legal services and advice for the people of Derby

Derby Law CentreWho are they?
DERBY LAW CENTRE.

Where are they?
Derby.

What do they do?
Give free legal advice and representation to residents of the city.

How big are they?
The merged organisation will have a turnover of around £2.25M and staff of around 35.

What did they receive?
MS Office and MS Publisher Professional editions, Small Business server 2003, Windows Server 2003, Windows XP Professional upgrades

The outcome?
A robust technical backbone for their brand new combined legal facility.

www.derbylawcentre.org

 

Once a birthplace of Britain’s industrial revolution, Derby remains a thriving metropolis today, with a population of over 200,000. From spring 2007, residents will benefit from a service unique in the UK – a one-stop shop comprising of the newly-merged Citizen’s Advice Bureau and Derby Law Centre.

Bob Clark, Development Officer with the Derby Law Centre, explains the concept. “Traditionally, the CAB offers ‘generalist’ help to users, whereas we provide specialist legal advice. But there is a huge overlap. For example, if somebody has been unfairly dismissed they may go to the CAB for initial help, but eventually require representation at court.”

Whilst the Centre’s use is free of charge to all resident in the city, it is those who are ‘shut out’ from the normal legal process who benefit most from its services; this forms the majority of the user base. These might be people with debt problems, victims of domestic violence, or asylum seekers and refugees, for instance.

The merger will streamline and improve services immensely – but a complete office move coupled with the union of two totally separate organisations provides a gigantic headache on the IT front. Bob dons his new-technology hat to explain.

“It’s questionable whether the server we currently have could cope with an organisation double the size,” he says. “And we certainly haven’t been running the latest software. We spent time considering open-source and Linux, but then the Microsoft/CTX programme came along. It was perfect timing.”

Across both organisations, staff are now running consistent and upgraded versions of Microsoft software, with brand new MS servers ready to be installed at the new larger premises. Aside from the productivity and compatibility improvements, Bob feels that using Microsoft products brings a certain credibility factor. “We need to show that we’ll give people the same level of service and professionalism that they’d get from any mainstream solicitors,” he says. “You don’t get that by sending file attachments with old versions of free software.”

A major outcome of the donation has been the ability to introduce MS Project to help manage the administration of large external funding projects. “We support the Home Office scheme covering the development and understanding of British Citizenship,” Bob offers by way of an example. “MS Project helps us ensure that applicants for citizenship are guided through the process effectively. It's a definite boon.”

 
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