Legal education charity offers unprecedented number of training places to aspiring social welfare lawyers

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Exclusive: Big hopes to take the total number of fellows to 50 by next year


A legal education charity has today announced that it’s giving 13 wannabe lawyers the chance to train up in the fiercely competitive world of social welfare law.

This is the highest number of fellowships offered since the Justice First Fellowship (JFF) programme began.

The 13 successful applicants will be working and training in one of 13 host organisations (listed in full below), which are based across the country.


All of these charities and advice agencies are new to the programme this year, bar the Central England Law Centre.

The JFF scheme is a great opportunity for aspiring lawyers who aren’t drawn to the big City lights to train up in an important and community-driven practice area in which job opportunities are usually dwindling.

The programme — which was launched by charity The Legal Education Foundation (TLEF) in 2013 — has grown from strength to strength in its short life, and even strayed away from its solicitor focus earlier this year when it opened its doors to aspiring barristers for the first time.

This time around, four more places are up for grabs on the scheme than were available last year, 11 for aspiring solicitors and 2 for aspiring barristers.

This takes the total number of fellows up to 31, and the charity has high hopes that its solid contribution to social justice will keep growing.

A number of new funders are on board with the project this year, including City law firm Hogan Lovells, who will be supporting the Anti-Trafficking and Labour Exploitation Unit and the Central England Law Centre. Matthew Smerdon, chief executive of TLEF, told Legal Cheek the co-funding is “going well”, and that the charity hopes to hit 50 fellows as of next year.

Interested? If you can demonstrate a commitment to social justice, then you can start applying from 15 August 2016 via TLEF’s website. The successful applicants will take up their posts in January 2017.



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A career in social welfare law will mean that you probably get less in salary than your clients get in benefits.

I do Legal Aid and once had an unemployed client who got more in housing benefit that I, slogging me guts out, could afford to pay in rent cos he had a load of kids.



you should stay away from legal aid with that attitude.




You can still do legal aid while commenting on aspects of the social security system and potentially perverse incentives for individuals within it.



I would not trust someone to do right by their clients when helping them access welfare benefits, when they think that those clients should not be entitled to them. Especially if they believe this passionately, and especially if this belief arises from prejudice as it seems to with the original commentator – ‘you will probably get less in salary than your clients get in benefits’ – a claim that is ridiculous given that general level of benefits is low, despite a few much-publicised cases, and seems to arise from a prejudice against benefit claimants.

it would be like representing someone in a claim against the police while believing that people of the claimant’s race are all thugs/deserve poor treatment. that is unlikely to go well

don’t underestimate how much your thoughts and feelings affect your actions.



This is all a bit strongly phrased. I don’t want to put anyone off legal aid who thinks that the benefits system is imperfect, and I expect everyone has individual clients who they think are undeserving. But I think that prejudiced attitudes of all kinds can affect our work, as can emotions in general.


OP said they work in Legal Aid, not necessarily social welfare law.

I work in crime and have seen similar when filling in Legal Aid forms. If one receives a “passported” benefit, then Legal Aid is an entitlement regardless of the total household income.

Often it’s a minor disability and children to look after that brings in a plethora of benefits that can exceed average incomes- remember the benefits cap does not apply to people with disabilities.

Single Jobseekers, by contrast, get next to nothing.

Trump & Krieg

What abject nonsense. If every lawyer whose political opinions confilicted with his client’s instructions were to withdraw the legal system would barely be able to function. This SJW attitude of intolerance to even the slightest deviation from the Labour Party position on everything is just alienating people who otherwise might concern themselves with the cause of social justice.


Ah, this will be why one criminal lawyer I know has represented pedophiles on more than one occassion. It’s because he’s naturally sympathetic to their plight, and nothing to do with his professional duty at all. Weird, what with him being a protective father and all.


I experienced a similar thing when assessing a clients disposable income under a Cw1 form. Some of the figures were astounding/embarrassing



Do also remember that there is a middle ground between the “City lights” and social welfare work, not to pooh-pooh the latter. Lots of regional or even slightly smaller London firms which offer good commercial work for decent wags without having to suffer an awful worl-life balance!



I’ve worked in commercial law, litigation, employment, and done work experience in crime and immigration.

I’ve come to the conclusion that I hate all types of law, tbh.



Katie King. This is quality article.
I’m impressed.
Please please please keep it up!




*This is a quality article.

Apologies for the typo guys.



I do legal aid work. I was a paralegal and then got a training contract. I absolutely love it. It’s intellectually challenging and the clients are a joy. I would encourage others to seriously consider publicly funded work. Dealing with the LAA is a pain but the work is fun.



A charity offering TCs is an interesting idea, but could it lead to a situation where the number of NQs in these areas of the law will outnumber the number of NQ positions?



It’s certainly a good scheme, but it’s a shame they aren’t recruiting students before they take the LPC. That would be a big help to people who are interested in these areas of work, but who don’t have parental funds to spend on the LPC.
Part of the attraction of city firms is the funding and lack of large financial risk.


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