In April 2019, we released our manifesto, declaring that we will not allow legal aid cuts to be the death of the social welfare lawyer. We said: “We strive to be a home for passionate law students, advisers, activists and social welfare lawyers committed to using the law to fight for social justice.”
Legal education is increasingly narrow in focus, with few opportunities to study social welfare law. Legal Aid cuts have reduced the opportunities for students to gain experience in these areas, let alone obtain future paid training and employment. However, we know that to effectively restore legal aid, we must develop and retain legal expertise in social welfare law, and the next generation of lawyers to fight for free access to justice.
“We are therefore proud to announce that many of our student lawyers have secured scholarships, training contracts and pupillage this year. This next generation will take the fight for free access to justice with them in their careers and as campaigners. See below just a few of these aspiring lawyers and their reflections on their experiences.
Lilian Lewis: future pupil barrister at Garden Court North Chambers
I have been volunteering at GMLC through the Legal Advocacy Support Project. This has involved providing advice, support and representation to clients who are appealing failed assessments for Employment and Support Allowance, a type of sickness benefit. It has been hard to see first-hand the human costs of government funding cuts to both welfare and legal aid, but getting involved with the centre has also meant getting to know an amazing group of campaigners, lawyers and members of the community who are totally committed to fighting for free access to justice and a fairer welfare system.
“I have just finished studying the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) and I volunteered at GMLC throughout the course. My goal is to qualify as a barrister and I am very happy to have accepted a Pupillage at Garden Court North Chambers which specialises in civil liberties and human rights work. I have no doubt that my experience at GMLC strengthened my application to the Chambers and I look forward to staying involved with the law centre in my future career. Most importantly, I will definitely be carrying the spirit of GMLC in my work. My time here has made me more determined than ever to fight to uphold people’s rights through justice!”
Lilian (centre-left) training with others at GMLC
Arwa Graf: Inner Temple Major scholarship recipient
“I just completed my LLB this year after a gruelling three years. I’m planning to do the BPTC next year (beginning September 2019) after being awarded a Major Scholarship from The Honourable Society of The Inner Temple. Without a doubt, volunteering at GMLC provided me with the important skills and experience needed to become a barrister. During my interview, I spoke about my journey into Law, how I began volunteering at GMLC and my dream to specialise in social welfare and housing law when I qualify as a barrister. I’m almost certain that it helped me stand out from the rest since social welfare law is not as popular as it was before because of LASPO. However, I have grown so much since I began at GMLC in 2016. 3 years later, I’m starting to realise my potential and it feels fantastic!”
Roz Burgin: future pupil barrister at Garden Court North Chambers
“I moved to Manchester to study the GDL in 2016. I was interested in law as a tool to challenge systemic injustice, and I was trying to determine whether this was something I would commit to as a career. Very few law course providers have classes on social welfare or access to justice, so I felt alienated as an aspiring legal aid lawyer. I came across GMLC just as it was opening its doors in 2016, and I started volunteering on reception one day per week. GMLC showed me that there are many others who share my motivation to use the law to fight against inequality, discrimination and abuse of power – even in the face of austerity and legal aid cuts. Nearly three years down the line, I now work at GMLC on campaigns, and I have received an offer of pupillage at Garden Court North Chambers to start in 2020. It is thanks to GMLC that I had the determination and experience to pursue this path.”
Lily Grundy: future trainee solicitor at Olliers Solicitors
“I volunteered at GMLC soon after starting my GDL. I converted into law after having a career in professional dance so it was a very new and sometimes overwhelming experience for me. Volunteering at GMLC gave me the opportunity to engage in legal-based research and have an insight into the incredible campaigns led by the centre. Volunteering provided me with a solid foundation from which I could build further legal experience and grow my career. It gave me the confidence to seek other learning opportunities and grow my network. In this doing, I was thrilled to obtain a training contract at Olliers Solicitors, a criminal law firm based in Manchester City Centre, which I will be starting in September.”
Robert Povall: future pupil barrister at Chavasse Court Chambers
“I have been volunteering with GMLC since December 2017. I was recently offered pupillage at Chavasse Court Chambers in Liverpool and will be starting this September.
“Volunteering with GMLC gave me a unique insight into the state of legal aid and access to justice. The work they do is incredible and it is no understatement to say they are a pillar of the local community.
“Prior to coming to law, I had no legal work experience. GMLC gave me the vital skills and understanding I needed to successfully attain a Major Scholarship from Middle Temple to fund my BPTC studies and now pupillage. I could not have got this far without them.
“The team and volunteers at GMLC change lives on a daily basis and it is my honour to consider myself a part of that. I know that I will take what I have learnt at GMLC into pupillage and beyond.”