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King’s, Cardiff and Nottingham law schools bag awards for pro bono efforts

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Endeavours to promote access to justice recognised at annual LawWorks ceremony

A number of law schools across England and Wales have been praised for their efforts in promoting access to justice at this year’s LawWorks and Attorney General Student Pro Bono Awards.

The gong for ‘Best new pro bono activity’ went to The Protea Clinic, a collaborative project set up by King’s Legal Clinic, Hammersmith and Fulham Law Centre and Hibiscus Initiatives to provide immigration advice to vulnerable migrant women.

The student staffed clinic works with clients from very complex backgrounds and often experience mental health difficulties, language and cultural barriers, poverty, gender-based abuse, loneliness, homelessness and involvement with the criminal justice system.

KCL philosophy, politics and law student Amanda Ignatia scooped the gong for ‘Best contribution by an individual’ in recognition of her unwavering commitment to pro bono legal work during lockdown.

Judges noted that she was first student at her law school to volunteer to take on cases remotely in response to the pandemic and took up the role of student-volunteer director of the King’s new Human Rights and Environment Legal Clinic, a project that works with students on public interest cases and research projects which aim to protect the environment and promote human rights.

Elsewhere, student team leaders of Cardiff University’s Innocence Project landed the awarded for ‘Best contribution by a team of students’. This, the judges said, was due to their efforts in helping run the largest and most active project of its kind in the UK and the only one to have overturned convictions at the Court of Appeal.

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Meanwhile, ‘Best contribution by a law school’ went to Nottingham Law School Legal Advice Centre, part of Nottingham Trent University. During the last academic year, 340 student volunteers helped secure over £730,000 for clients, including £680,000 in welfare benefits. Notts Trent undergrads represented 34 individuals before the Social Security Tribunal and achieved an impressive success rate of 82%

The Attorney General, Michael Ellis QC, dished out the awards at virtual ceremony yesterday evening. He said:

“I am thrilled to continue this valuable tradition alongside LawWorks to recognise and award the brilliant contributions to pro bono and public legal education by students across the country. The innovation, drive and spirit shown by all of those involved in the projects shortlisted for an award attests to the high quality of aspiring young lawyers. They have all demonstrated their commitment to the rule of law and support for the community, and are a credit to their universities and themselves. I wish everyone involved the very best in their future endeavours, and offer my congratulations to all of the winners.”

Bangor Law School were also crowned winners of the Access to Justice Foundation award for an educational body or student which has made a significant contribution to promoting access to justice, with a special joint commendation to Cambridge Pro Bono Law Society and Leeds Law School.

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