Junior lawyer Keegan Jones is running free legal clinics. Photo / Michael Cunningham
Navigating the complex legal system has been made easier for more than 40 Northlanders thanks to a young lawyer’s drive to help others.
Keegan Jones (Ngāti Hine, Ngāti Porou) had the idea to set up free legal clinics alongside Ngāti Hine Health Trust and 155 Whare Āwhina earlier this year.
He wanted to work within kaupapa Māori and utilise the skills he gained at Te Puni Kōkiri/The Ministry of Māori Development and president of Te Pūtāiki (the Māori Law Students’ Association).
Jones saw some people were clearly struggling for access to legal help, and he reached out to Ngāti Hine Health Trust and 155 Whare Āwhina to set up free legal clinics that would aid those who needed it.
Since his goal came to fruition in March there hasn’t been a quiet night, he said.
Jones said people attending the clinics are primarily looking for help in family and criminal law – something he described as a “different kettle of fish”. Most were on the lower end of the socio-economic ladder or from outside of New Zealand.
“A lot of them don’t have the money to afford a lawyer, so we’re their last port of call.”
Jones believed there was potential to grow access to legal advice, such as creating an online space to cater for people unable to make the trip to Whangārei, or clinics in Kawakawa or Kaikohe.
His work in the last 18 months as a junior lawyer has caused him to come across issues he described as confronting.
“It’s been eye-opening to see the actual impact of not having proper access to the justice system,” he said.
Jones wanted to see internal referrals expanded to support whānau who may be distressed so they can be provided with help then and there.
“We’re wanting to get more practitioners in the community involved to share their expertise,” he said.
The clinics operate fortnightly at Ngāti Hine Health Trust and the next will be held on Wednesday, July 5 from 5.30pm.