I became an Honorary Legal Adviser with Citizens Advice North Oxfordshire and South Northants through sheer good luck. There are times when I feel blessed with more than my share of good fortune.

When I went to University College, London, as I was probably the only law student who was aircrew fit, I ended up joining the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. The Royal Air Force not only taught me to fly but also provided me with a batman; a gentleman’s gentleman.

When I started my legal career, the Oxford firm I chose, it was like that in those days, provided me with high quality work.

My most recent stroke of good fortune, and hopefully not my last, was to apply to Citizens Advice to be a volunteer, my wife having suggested it might be a good idea after I retired. They were on the phone at once, invited me in and, having made enquiries about my skills and experience, suggested I become their Honorary Legal Advisor. Not for nothing did they receive the Queens’ Award for Charity in 2015, the only charity in Oxfordshire to do so. The banter, camaraderie and professionalism of the staff and volunteers are superb.  

In my role, I advise Citizens Advice clients on legal matters. This includes the drafting of pleadings and other legal documents and advising clients on how to represent themselves in court. I particularly focus on family legal issues. It is possible to provide a service similar to that of a solicitor in private practice to people who are not able to afford to retain legal representation and who are not eligible for legal aid, so would be denied access to justice. What I am not able to do is to represent clients in court except in an emergency and then only on a short hearing. 

I would encourage other legal professionals approaching retirement to consider volunteering at their local Citizens Advice. They do not have to be a full scale Honorary Legal Adviser, although that is something worthy of consideration. There are also opportunities for those starting a legal career to gain valuable skills and experience whilst helping those in their local community.