Free legal clinic for Samoa

By Deidre Tautua-Fanene ,

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HELPING THE PEOPLE: Lawyer, Unasa Iuni Sapolu with her Personal Assistant, Elisapeta Kopu hanging out her law office sign.

HELPING THE PEOPLE: Lawyer, Unasa Iuni Sapolu with her Personal Assistant, Elisapeta Kopu hanging out her law office sign.

Ever worried about speaking to a lawyer for legal advice because of the cost?

Well, worry no more because for the first time in Samoa, a law firm is offering free legal advice for the public every Saturday.

Senior lawyer, Unasa Iuni Sapolu is offering free legal advice to members of the public on any matter that is of concern to you.

In an interview with the Samoa Observer, Unasa said the idea is to help the people of Samoa because as a lawyer herself, she knows how it feels when people try to get legal advice from lawyers.

“We actually started this last week but today, we seriously got into it. The way it works is that the people have to call in from Monday to Friday for appointments,” she said.

“Then we start filing out forms so that when they come in on Saturday, the basic information is ready.

“On Saturday, we start at 8am and go through until 11am so it’s three hours.

“I must also say that we will not be taking any late calls. What I mean by that is if they ring on Friday night and they want to come in on Saturday or if they call on Saturday morning and expect to be seen on that day? No. That’s not how it works but they have to call during the week.

“I also take messenger messages so they can also get through by messenger.” 

“The objective is to make sure that the public is informed that there is a free service here in Samoa. It’s for people who feel stressed with anything that hits them about the law; especially people who have been charged by police officers or traffic officers or who have been terminated by their employers,” she said.

“When people are in those kinds of situations, it’s very hard but I want them to know that there is a place that can help them out with free, legal advice.

“I thought I’d start it out but already there have been lawyers who are interested in joining in but I told them to wait a while until we get busy then they will be informed. But at the moment, I’ll just start it out and then we’ll see from here.

“I think this is the first of its kind here in Samoa and the idea is not new. I worked as a Citizens Advice Bureau lawyer in New Zealand for more than 20 years.

“So now that I spend a lot of time in Samoa, I thought that I might as well continue with it. On  Saturdays I go to the plantation but I thought I’d do something here in the morning when my mind is fresh and full of ideas.

“And also I thought that my experience can be used here in Samoa. I have been doing some free work during the week but to have a proper time set is something that we Samoan people need so that is why we have done this.”

So how exactly does it work?

“People will have to call in and we will fill out the form for them with their names, village and their issue that they need legal advice about,” said Unasa.

“Basically the service will provide the people with free, legal advice on any issue. I also hope to have a list of lawyers they can contact after we have already seen them.

“We will serve anyone rich or poor. We will get to everyone and we can also help sign any documents that need a lawyer’s signature and it’s for free. The only documents that we don’t sign for free are documents from overseas. 

“So we will give legal advice on any issues and we will also help with lawyers if their issue is crucial.

“The service we offer is 10 minutes per person but if the matter is crucial, then we will give the clients 15 minutes.

“Today we served about three people and I mean it’s just the beginning and I guess the people don’t really know about the service and hopefully when it comes out in the paper, they will be able to come for help.

“One thing I also want to clarify is that some people when they see it’s for free they might think the work that we do is also cheap. No. I don’t do cheap stuff. I mean I am a senior lawyer and have been in the field for as long as I can remember so we will give the public the best advice that we know suits their problem.

“The reason why it’s free is to help the people of Samoa because nowadays, speaking to a lawyer is very expensive and so that’s why we are here to tell the people that we can help.

“Just call us and we will see you on Saturdays.

“The number is 31111 or mobile 773-8947 but with the mobile I can only take text messages I also have a facebook page I can answer anyone on message as well just add me on facebook Iuni Sapolu and I will be able to help you with our service.

“Remember we give legal advice on any matter.” 

© Samoa Observer 2016

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