Outstanding achievement in legal pro bono was celebrated at the 2015 LawWorks Pro Bono Annual Awards and Lecture held at Linklaters LLP.
Winners were chosen in nine categories representing the breadth and range of pro bono delivery and innovation across the profession in England and Wales.The Chair of LawWorks Paul Newdick CBE QC (Hons) was honoured with an award for Outstanding Commitment to Pro Bono and LawWorks, which was presented by the Hon. Mr Justice Knowles.
Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty, gave a thought provoking keynote speech titled ‘On Liberty’ and legal commentator and journalist Joshua Rozenberg hosted the event including a stimulating question and answer session with Shami.
LawWorks CEO Martin Barnes said, “This has been a truly inspiring evening and a reminder of the dedication and commitment of the legal profession to improving lives through impactful pro bono advice. Congratulations to the winners and all the shortlisted nominees for the exceptional work they are doing. I would also like to thank Shami Chakrabarti and Joshua Rozenberg for helping to make the evening such a success”.
James Harper, Head of Legal for LexisNexis UK & Ireland said: “LexisNexis is incredibly proud to continue our long running association with LawWorks and honoured to be able to support the Awards which raise awareness of the fantastic pro bono projects being delivered across the country. Congratulations to all those nominated for their tireless efforts to enable access to justice
The winners of the Awards were:
Most effective pro bono partnership - Children’s Pro Bono Legal Service (Allen & Overy, Coram Children’s Legal Centre and DLA Piper)
Coram Children’s Legal Centre collaborated with Allen & Overy and DLA Piper to set up the Children’s Pro Bono Legal Service which provides free legal representation to children who were born in the UK, have lived here for the first ten years of their lives and who face a high risk of breaches of their human rights. Pairs of lawyers (one senior and one junior) work on each matter under a supervising solicitor (who is paid with funding provided by Unbound Philanthropy) and meet clients, gather supporting evidence and prepare representations on their behalf to the Home Office. The clinic has taken on around 30 cases since its inception in February 2015 and so far 60 lawyers have undergone training to carry out this work. Obtaining nationality is extremely important for these children who are often amongst the poorest in the UK but who have spent their entire lives in this country and consider themselves British – it enables them to obtain a passport, progress with their education and lends stability to their lives.
Best contribution by a small firm - Emma Williams Family Law
Since February 2015 more than 70 clients have been advised by Emma Williams on a pro bono basis on child contact matters in Wales. The clients do not qualify for Legal Aid and are often below the Joseph Rowntree poverty level and support is provided to them in the form of advice and representation at court by Emma who travels to visit clients in Swansea, Carmarthen, Cardiff, Neath, Aberystwyth and Merthyr (without paid expenses). In areas such as Aberystwyth there are no sources of free advice on family law so Emma’s help as a volunteer solicitor is invaluable. Emma also trains and develops local students and volunteers to enable them to provide additional court assistance and support for residents without the cost of instructing a solicitor. One client said “I honestly don’t know what I would have done without the volunteers and Emma – I would probably have agreed to anything my ex wanted and I would no longer be caring for my eldest son”.
Best contribution by a firm with an English regional Head Office - Muckle
Muckle is a corporate law firm based in Newcastle upon Tyne. The majority of the partners were born in the North East and collectively the firm feels that its success cannot be viewed in isolation from the communities in which they live, many of which suffer from extreme poverty and deprivation. As a result, the firm has a strong Corporate Social Responsibility programme, led for 15 years by senior partner Hugh Welch, part of which involves pro bono work (worth over £100,000) in advising small local charities (over 40 in the past 12 months) on employment law, governance or property related issues. The work is undertaken by a cross section of solicitors in the firm, all of whom are entitled to two annual days leave for volunteering activities, and who are also encouraged to become trustees and governors. One grateful charity commented “Muckle is approachable, thoughtful and goes the extra mile to understand our organisation and find a solution you are comfortable with”.
Best contribution by a firm with a London Head Office - Duncan Lewis
Duncan Lewis established the Duncan Lewis Pro Bono Clinic in 2009 which is open every Tuesday evening and provides clients with free advice on areas such as housing, immigration, employment, welfare benefits, family law and civil litigation. This year it has advised 464 clients in the east London area, many of whom are low paid or in receipt of benefits, and is driven by the belief that legal redress should be less complex and more accessible. In addition, the Clinic has forged a partnership with the University of East London and assists the pro bono clinic run there by students. Trained advisors are also provided by the Clinic to a number of marginalised minority groups across London (such as the Brixton Domestic Violence Unit, the Turkish Cypriot Women’s Project Advice Surgery and Shelter Hackney), who would otherwise have no access to legal advice. In November 2015 the firm is organising a trip to Calais in collaboration with three barristers’ chambers to provide immigration advice surgeries over a two day period.
Best contribution by an international Firm - DLA Piper
DLA Piper’s UK lawyers have donated approximately 26,000 hours of pro bono assistance over the past year to a variety of projects including either running or contributing to 15 different legal clinics in 7 locations across the UK. Examples of the work they have undertaken include winning an Article 8 appeal case for a Ghanaian family with children who had severe learning difficulties to enable them to stay in the UK and winning an appeal in the Immigration Tribunal in relation to a case for asylum on behalf of a woman from a West African country who had been subjected to FGM. The firm has also supported over 200 charities and NGOs in the UK providing legal advice and running training sessions. One charity they assist (the Habeas Corpus Project which provides pro bono legal representation to migrants and asylum seekers who have been unlawfully detained in the UK) says “We have been consistently impressed by their provision of support, their invitations to meet in person at their offices and their responsiveness to any ideas and queries we have”.
Best contribution by an in-house team - Hilton Worldwide
The Hilton Legal team participates enthusiastically in pro bono work in collaboration with LawWorks. It advises a number of small charities who cannot afford legal advice on real estate matters involving tenancies and leases, often against unscrupulous third parties who are intent on exploiting Hilton’s pro bono clients. One team member has delivered a presentation on ‘Lease Renewal Rights for Tenants’ which has been viewed over 500 times on YouTube by charities and a standard client care letter has been produced for other in-house teams who advise through LawWorks to use. In October 2015 the team partnered with Watford Citizen’s Advice Bureau to hold a clinic throughout the month where 30 local residents were provided with advice on will writing, family law and litigation issues (and this clinic will be repeated every four months). One charity expressed its thanks to Hilton by saying “Thank you for all your patience, support and hard work on our behalf. We really could not have managed without you”.
Best contribution by an individual - Jennifer Deakin (DLA Piper)
Jennifer Deakin is the lead contact for DLA Piper in the Leeds based Manuel Bravo Project, having been working on cases on a pro bono basis for this charity since 2008. The Manuel Bravo Project provides free assistance to asylum seekers, many of whom are now no longer eligible for Legal Aid following the changes brought about by the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012. Jennifer (who is not an immigration specialist) has in the past year led teams of lawyers on a number of cases, including successfully representing a female asylum seeker from a West African country in her appeal to the Immigration Tribunal against the original decision to grant her refugee status. The asylum seeker had undergone FGM in her own country and fled to the UK for safety. Jennifer is now involved in the case for the client’s daughter to be granted leave to relocate to the UK, an application which is still awaiting an outcome.
Junior Lawyer’s Division Pro Bono Award - Maeve Hanna (Allen & Overy)
Maeve Hanna works in a number of different pro bono areas including advising disadvantaged individuals at Toynbee Hall free legal advice clinic and advising litigants in person at the Royal Courts of Justice CAB. During the past year, she has been working on three matters for Bail for Immigration Detainees (BID), the first of which is an intervention before the Supreme Court for two days in January 2016 and is a challenge to the application of policy in the context of a detainee with mental health issues. The second matter is a Freedom of Information appeal to be heard before the First Tier Tribunal in December 2015 by BID to ensure that detainees have all the information they need to assess the legality of their situation and the third is a Court of Appeal case relating to a potential application for permission to intervene. BID says “Maeve has provided… a tremendous amount of pro bono help and advice, contributing her legal skills to complex and significant cases on BID’s behalf”
The LawWorks Cymru Award - LawWorks Cardiff Pro Bono Employment Clinic at the Speakeasy Advice Centre
This clinic has for the past 10 years provided fortnightly specialist employment and discrimination law advice to the most vulnerable individuals across Cardiff. Typical work undertaken has included advising a cleaner on his TUPE rights, advising a television extra about his employment contractual rights and advising a cleaner on how to take his unpaid wages claim to an Employment Tribunal. Since the clinic moved to the Speakeasy Advice Centre in February 2015, advice has been provided to 104 individuals. One testimonial from a client stated “The skill and dogged persistence tirelessly provided by my adviser ensured that the employment tribunal saw the true merit of my case and ruled in my favour. I will be forever grateful for the help I received at a very difficult time in my life”.
Outstanding Contribution to Pro Bono and LawWorks Award - Paul Newdick.
Presented by the Hon. Mr Justice Knowles, the Award was in recognition of Paul Newdick's massive contribution to pro bono and LawWorks. After 15 years at the charity, Paul will be stepping down as Chair of the Board of Trustees in early 2016.