Four of Bristol’s largest firms have joined forces with The Legal Education Foundation (TLEF) to cover the £37,500 a year costs of a law centre trainee. The initiative is part of the TLEF’s Justice First Fellowship scheme which aims to support ‘the next generation of social welfare lawyers’.
The successful candidate will work at Avon & Bristol Law Centre which has seen inquiries double over the last year as a result of the April 2013 legal aid cuts, welfare reforms, and cuts to other local services. The law centre recently hit the headlines after having recovered more than £1 million on behalf of people wrongly declared fit for work by the Department for Work and Pensions. Its Legal Advocacy Support Project has a 95% success rate for its ‘fit for work’ appeals.
‘We’re seeing more and more people asking for legal advice who have a complex range of personal and legal problems, and often ones as fundamental as hunger,’ commented Clare Carter, the centre’s director. ‘We are seeing clients who haven’t eaten for days. Demand for our services is increasing at a time when resources are reducing as a result of public sector cuts, leading us to turn more and more to the private sector for support.’
Carter raised the prospect of involving the private sector with TLEF and Osborne Clarke. Osborne Clarke, Burges Salmon, DAC Beachcroft and TLT are all involved in the initiative. She said: It’s hoped that having the Bristol commercial law firms working together in this way will mean that the funding will be sustainable over more years than the two required to train the new solicitor, with the possibility of other law firms and barristers’ chambers stepping into the mix in future years.’
Simon Beswick, international CEO of Osborne Clarke, said that Avon & Bristol Law Centre provided ‘an indispensable service to the South West community’. ‘We’re proud to support the funding of its traineeship for one special candidate, particularly during this uncertain time for legal aid.’
As part of National Pro Bono Week), TLEF and Osborne Clarke will be hosting an event at the firm’s Bristol office on November 4.
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