A legal advice centre at Queen Mary, University of London, which offers free support to current and former armed forces personnel and their families, is up for two gongs at the annual Attorney General Student Pro Bono Awards.
The 'Supporting those who serve' project run by the Queen Mary Legal Advice Centre (LAC) has been shortlisted in the Best New Pro Bono Activity category and the LAC itself is up for the Best Contribution by a Law School. The LAC was established six years ago.
Although there are over 3,000 charities for the British armed forces and ex-servicemen there are few that entirely focus on free legal advice, like the LAC. Last year the LAC, which has over 70 students and more than 100 top City lawyers volunteering their free time and professional skills, and has been running for six years, had 3,000 enquiries and handled a broad range of cases including medical negligence, employment discrimination and criminal offences.
The 'Supporting those who serve' initiative was established in September 2012 and is the only one of its kind run by a UK university that offers this type of service free of charge to the British armed forces.
Julie Pinborough, LAC Manager, explains: “We launched the service because we had a case a few years ago where someone serving in the armed forces was unable to deal with his legal issue fully, due to returning to duty in Afghanistan. His absence from the UK meant his problems escalated and could have resulted in thousands of pounds in legal fees. Luckily we were able to assist him, but it did raise our awareness of the difficulties faced by servicemen and women.
“Another problem that many current and ex armed forces personnel face is that although they can use the same legal advice provisions as the general public, these services are generally not set up to deal with the more far reaching issues that they face such as PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) and mental health illnesses.”
The Awards celebrate the positive impact that pro bono activity (unpaid, voluntary work) can have on people who desperately need to access justice but are unable to afford costly legal fees. This year the Attorney General, Dominic Grieve QC MP, will be presenting to the winners on 25 March, 2013 at the House of Commons.
Julie added: “To be nominated and shortlisted in such coveted awards is a testament to the services we offer, and the calibre of our students. Our programme has grown progressively over the last six years; from our initial focus on key practice areas we have expanded to include almost every area of public interest law.”
If you are a member of the armed forces or an ex-serviceman/woman and need legal advice then please contact the Legal Advice Centre at firstname.lastname@example.org or 020 7882 3931.
The LAC is a member of LawWorks and is supported by 15 New Bridge Street, Bross Bennett, Field Fisher Waterhouse, Mishcon de Reya, Nabas Legal, Reed Smith and Simmons & Simmons.
The centre has been nominated for several awards since it was established. It was winner of the Attorney General’s Best New Project in 2010 and a finalist in the Lawyer Award for Pro Bono Team of the Year.
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Queen Mary, University of London