The College of Law is celebrating success in the Attorney General Student Pro Bono Awards 2009 after its students walked away with first place in two of the four categories.
Bar vocational course students from the Birmingham centre were presented with the award for ‘Best New Pro Bono Activity’ for their voluntary work helping people access advice and representation at Employment Tribunals.
Birmingham College of Law Bar Vocational Course students receive the award for ‘Best New Pro Bono Activity’ from Attorney General Baroness Scotland (left).
Former student Camilla Graham Wood won the award for ‘Best Contribution by an Individual Student’ for her human rights work in the UK and overseas, both during her time studying the Legal Practice Course at the Bloomsbury centre and afterwards.
The College of Law was also runner-up in the ‘Best Contribution by a Law School’ category for its wide-ranging pro-bono activities across its six centres.
The awards, organised by pro bono charity LawWorks, were presented by Attorney General Baroness Scotland at a reception at the House of Lords.
The news comes hot on the heels of the College’s recent success in the Negotiation Competition, a prestigious national competition to find the country’s toughest law student negotiators, at which a team of BVC students from the Bloomsbury branch took first prize.
Sara Chandler, Director of Pro Bono Services at The College of Law, Bloomsbury, said: “This is a well deserved and a great tribute to all the committed students, who have dedicated their free time to volunteering for pro bono activities.
“Pro bono is an extremely important aspect of the work of the College and not only reaches out to a community, which finds it difficult to obtain affordable and legal advice, but also harnesses the talent and potential of trainee lawyers at a formative point in their career development.”
The award presented to the Birmingham BVC students is in recognition of their work with the Birmingham TUC Centre for the Unemployed (BTUCCU), an independent voluntary organisation providing free advice on welfare benefits and employment rights to low-waged and disadvantaged people in the local community. The students provide help to people taking their cases to Employment Tribunals, under the supervision of qualified solicitors and barristers.
Their activities include holding conferences with clients, drafting documents such as witness statements, liaising with representatives of the opposing party, convening pre-hearing meetings and representing the clients at the Tribunal itself.
Since the scheme was launched in January 2008 more than 50 students have taken part. Several students have stayed on as volunteers for the BTUCCU even after finishing their studies at the College enabling more than 140 people to receive face-to-face advice.
Camilla Graham Brown’s pro bono work has included working for the Prisoners’ Advice Service giving legal advice to inmates in England and Wales. She also volunteered at a day centre in London helping homeless people with their legal problems and, through The College of Law’s Legal Advice Centre, researched employment law on behalf of people, who had lost their jobs.
Her international pro bono activities included work with the Law Society’s International Action Team carrying out extensive research into the plight of human rights defenders in Colombia and briefing lawyers, who travelled to Bogotá on a human rights fact-finding mission.
From September to November 2008 Camilla worked at the Caribbean Centre for Human Rights in Trinidad, where she assisted in appeals lodged by Death Row prison inmates, by conducting conferences with inmates, taking instructions and reporting advice. She is now volunteering in the human rights department of Justice.