LawWorks and Attorney General’s Student Pro Bono Awards 2018

LawWorks and Attorney General’s Student Pro Bono Awards 2018

Peter Farr2 May 2018

CILEx Pro Bono Trust trustee, Peter Farr, writes about his experience on the judging panel for the 2018 LawWorks and Attorney General’s Student Pro Bono Awards.

I was honoured to be asked to join the judging panel for this year’s national student pro bono awards, organised by LawWorks.* It proved to be an inspiring – and somewhat humbling – experience.

CILEx students and graduates know better than anyone the difficulties of balancing legal studies with working lives. Most of those entering these awards are full-time students, but they are making an enormous contribution to their local communities and meeting real needs.

The awards have four categories:

  • Best contribution by an individual student; 
  • Best contribution by a law school; 
  • Best contribution by a team of students; and 
  • Best new pro bono activity. 

The categories enabled the work of both individuals and teams – and specific projects to shine. The field was strong, and the competition was intense: the winners were all worthy ones, in our collective view, but any of those shortlisted would have been worthy recipients.

Just under one-half of all Law Centre™ work is now undertaken by universities, and over one-half of all Law Centre volunteers are students. This voluntary work also sows the pro bono seed and appetite in young and aspiring lawyers at an early stage. And not all volunteers are young: a number were mature students juggling work, family and studies in a way that would be very familiar to readers of this article.

The range of entries was very good: we had employment law clinics helping workers made redundant from a company going into administration; volunteer advisers helping those going through the trauma and emotion of family break-ups; entries seeking to address perceived miscarriages of justice; centres operating in towns with no other Law Centre or accessible source of advice; schemes offering tailored services to people with disabilities; and schemes offering volunteers to support people in courts and tribunals. 

Above all, we had young people giving freely and extensively of their time and budding expertise. These are not the sort of stories that you normally read in the press about students or lawyers, but they are stories that deserve to be told. 

* The judges for the 2018 Awards were: Christina Blacklaws, vice-president of the Law Society; Josh Richman, senior editor, LawCareers.Net; James Harper, executive sponsor, Rule of Law and CSR for LexisNexis UK & Ireland; Alison Padfield QC, co-chair of the Bar Council Pro Bono Panel; and Peter Farr, trustee of CILEx Pro Bono Trust.

Student Pro Bono Awards 2018: the winners are…

  • Best contribution by a Law School: Plymouth Law School, Plymouth University
  • Best contribution by a team of students: The Birmingham Free Legal Advice Group Coordinators (FLAG), University of Birmingham
  • Best contribution by an individual student: Catherine Ruta (University of Birmingham)
  • Best new pro bono activity: The Family Justice Project, Northumbria Law School, Northumbria University

The Attorney General also presented Edinburgh University Free Legal Advice Centre with the Access to Justice Foundation Award, which recognises the work of individuals and educational bodies in promoting and supporting access to justice and charities which provide pro bono services.

Nottingham Law School, Nottingham Trent University was announced as the winner of the Law School Challenge, a law-school-led initiative to raise funds for LawWorks and the Bar Pro Bono Unit. 

The LawWorks and Attorney General Student Awards ceremony took place on Wednesday 25 April in the House of Commons. The ceremony was hosted by High Court Judge Sir Robin Knowles CBE, with award presentations by the Attorney General, Jeremy Wright QC.

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