• Bristol College of Law Caps Successful First Year with National Pro Bono Award Nominations

  • 16 March 2011

  • The College of Law’s Bristol centre has added to the overall success of its first year in operation by being shortlisted for two national pro bono awards.

    The Temple Circus centre and its students have been shortlisted in the ‘Best New Student Pro Bono Activity’ and the ‘Best Contribution By An Individual Student’ categories of the LawWorks & Attorney General Student Awards 2011.

    These annual awards mark the achievements of law schools and students around the country in providing free legal advice to those members of their local communities who would otherwise be unable to afford it.

    The Bristol centre has been shortlisted for its Family Law Email Advice Line (FEAL) while College student Georgina Murray, currently undertaking a Graduate Diploma in Law, has been shortlisted for her work with local charity One25, which provides support to Bristol’s sex workers.

    Winners will be announced at a ceremony at the House of Lords on March 30 presided over by Attorney General Dominic Grieve.

    This recognition of The College of Law in Bristol’s pro bono work is the latest chapter in its success story since opening in September 2010. In its first year it has attracted nearly 240 students, 26 per cent more than its target figure of 190, and signed training partnership deals with Bristol-based law firms Beachcroft, Osborne Clarke and TLT.

    The centre’s many pro bono activities include running legal advice clinics in local charities such as One25 and St Mungo’s homeless centre in Bristol - the Compass Centre. Students also run Streetlaw workshops to educate various community groups on their legal rights and responsibilities and last year worked with nearly 100 teenagers to stage a mock trial dealing with the challenges of social media.

    The FEAL project provides members of the public with free legal advice via email on their family law problems, such as domestic abuse, divorce and issues concerning children including contact, residence and support. A team of more than 40 students give advice under the supervision of fully-qualified lawyers to people referred to the service by Bristol’s Citizens Advice Bureau. Since FEAL started in December it has taken on more than 60 clients.

    Victoria Leather, pro bono coordinator and supervising solicitor at The College of Law in Bristol, said: “I am immensely proud of the pro bono programme, which we have worked hard to set up in a short space of time here at Bristol. The Government continues to put pressure on the Legal Aid system while failing to recognise that families will always have problems, which require legal advice and guidance.

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    Victoria Leather (left), pro bono coordinator at The College of Law in Bristol, supervises student Stephanie White as she works on the FEAL project.

    “By offering our local community a straightforward legal advice service by email we hope to ensure that as many people as possible have access to high quality, effective legal guidance, which allows them to understand their situation and options.”

    Bristol student Georgina Murray, aged 23, who is shortlisted in the ‘Best Contribution By An Individual Student’ category, impressed the judges with her commitment to One25. The Bristol charity reaches out to women trapped in street sex work, helping them to break free and build new lives away from violence, poverty and addiction.

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    Georgina Murray

    Georgina, who graduated from the University of Bristol with a degree in Politics in 2009, is a drop-in volunteer with the One25 team, befriending the women and helping them to improve their self esteem and achieve their full potential.

    Together with colleagues from the College and under Victoria’s supervision, she ran a legal advice clinic at the charity’s premises. She also helped devise a Streetlaw workshop to educate the women on their rights and responsibilities when dealing with the police.

    Of the women supported by One25 all suffer from chronic ill health, 99 per cent are addicted to Class A drugs and/or alcohol, 66 per cent are homeless, 62 per cent have reported childhood abuse, 38 per cent have been fostered or in a children’s home and 32 per cent left school at 14 or younger. In 2009 One25’s service users reported 173 violent attacks including domestic violence, rape and GBH.

    Georgina said: “I am absolutely overwhelmed to be shortlisted for the award. It means a lot to know people appreciate what you do. One25 is a unique and vital service which helps many vulnerable and disadvantaged women. Being able to make just the smallest difference in these women’s lives is an incredibly humbling experience.”

    The College of Law as a whole has also been shortlisted in the ‘Best Contribution by a Law School’ category of the Attorney General awards and its London Moorgate centre has been shortlisted in the ‘Best Contribution by a Team of Students’ category.

    Further information from Lucy Wray, Press Officer, The College of Law on 01483 216072 (lucy.wray@lawcol.co.uk)