A project run by law students and academics at Northumbria University to provide free community legal support has won a highly prestigious national award.
At the LawWorks and Attorney General Student Awards 2018, held in the House of Commons, judges named The Family Justice Project at Northumbria Law School as the Best New Pro Bono Activity.
The awards celebrate outstanding pro bono work undertaken by law schools and students across the UK, and seek to recognise the increasingly important role that students play in keeping the justice system functioning following years of cuts to legal aid.
They are run by national charity LawWorks with the support of the Attorney General, The Rt Hon Jeremy Wright QC MP.
The Family Justice Project launched in 2017, in response to the drastic surge in demand for pro bono legal advice and representation in family law matters in the North East following the reduction in the availability of legal aid.
Led by Ana Speed and Kayliegh Richardson, senior lecturers at Northumbria Law School and practising solicitors, The Family Justice Project empowers and provides extensive and high-quality free legal advice and support to vulnerable and minority groups.
Paul McKeown, director of the Student Law Office at Northumbria University, said: “These are hugely significant awards within the legal sector and we are immensely proud of all those involved in The Family Justice Project. The legal support provided has been recognised at the highest level for its quality, and for fulfilling a growing need for pro bono legal assistance.
“It also provides our students with an outstanding learning experience that they can take with them into their future careers. Winning the award is testament to their commitment and skills as legal practitioners – it is richly deserved.”
Professor John Wilson, pro vice-chancellor for Business and Law at Northumbria, said: “This is a superb achievement and I congratulate all our students and academics behind the project. We pride ourselves on our pioneering approach to clinic-based learning and the career-enhancing opportunities it can offer our students. Pro bono work is part of this. It is integral to Northumbria Law School, and to how we contribute to the local community. As well as supporting the professional development of our students, it is also incredibly rewarding.”
Commenting on the awards, The Attorney General, The Rt Hon Jeremy Wright QC MP, said: “These awards are an opportunity to celebrate the work of students who help increase access to justice in their communities. Early experience of pro bono can instil a passion and commitment that can last a whole career. Pro bono not only has a practical and beneficial impact on people’s lives; it has a positive effect on our legal system as well.”
Northumbria Law School’s clinical learning model is a key aspect of the award-winning Student Law Office, where final-year students provide a range of services including representing clients in court and tribunals, negotiating settlements and winning compensation. Since 2008 the Student Law Office has represented more than 2,300 clients and secured over £1 million on their behalf.