Fledgling barristers from Birmingham College of Law are in the running for an award from the Attorney General for their voluntary work helping people access advice and representation at Employment Tribunals.
Bar Vocational Course students from the College have been shortlisted in the ‘Best New Pro Bono Activity’ category of the national Attorney General Student Awards 2009.
The nomination is in recognition of their work with the Birmingham TUC Centre for the Unemployed (BTUCCU), an independent voluntary organisation based in Sparkhill, which provides free advice on employment, welfare benefits and employment rights to low-waged and disadvantaged people in the local community.
As part of the College of Law scheme students provide help to people taking their cases to Employment Tribunals, under the supervision of qualified solicitors and barristers.
Birmingham College of Law Bar Vocational Course students Mark Richards (left) and Will Hotham work on an Employment Tribunal case.
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.
Becky Parker, Pro Bono Co-ordinator and supervising solicitor at The College of Law’s Legal Advice Centre, Birmingham, says that there is no public funding available for representation before tribunals and a number of organisations providing free employment law advice and representation in Birmingham have had to close down services in recent years.
“There is a clear need in the local community for the services that the College’s students are providing as many people cannot afford to pay for representation,” she said. “Without this help they would have to manage on their own and representing oneself before a tribunal can be a very daunting experience.
“Being selected as a finalist for this prestigious award is a great and deserved tribute to all the committed Bar Vocational Course students, who have dedicated their free time to volunteering for the service.”
The results of the awards, organised by pro bono charity LawWorks, will be announced by Attorney General Baroness Scotland on March 31 at the House of Lords.
The BTUCCU scheme is part of the College of Law’s award-winning pro bono work, which is aimed at people from the local community, who may otherwise be unable to afford access to legal advice.