Two Law Centres - South West London Law Centres and Avon and Bristol Law Centre - are celebrating today being shortlisted for the Solicitors Journal Awards 2016.
Picked from "an unprecedented number of hugely impressive submissions," the two Law Centres have impressed the independent panel of judges. Some of their fellow shortlisted nominees are larger and better resourced firms, a fact that underscores the Law Centres' achievements.
South West London Law Centres' housing team is nominated for the Legal Aid Team of the Year Award. SWLLC is the largest Law Centre in London, comprising four permanent offices covering the six south-west London boroughs: Wandsworth, Merton, Richmond, Kingston, Croydon and Sutton. They provide full casework services covering social welfare law, primarily on legal aid basis. To supplement this, they also operate 14 weekly pro bono clinics, as well as outreach and educational activities.
Avon and Bristol Law Centre is nominated for Legal Education Provider of the Year Award for its Legal Advocacy Support Project. This collaboration with the University of Law and with the University of the West of England has law student volunteers help clients gather evidence and prepare appeals of 'fit-for-work' decisions affecting their Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) benefit. The students gain important hands-on experience and expert supervision, and clients benefit from the project's spectacular 96% appeal success rate.
Nimrod Ben-Cnaan, head of policy and profile at the Law Centres Network has said:
"Especially in challenging times, these shortlistings mean so much. Three years ago, when the LASPO Act came into effect, only one in ten not-for-profit legal aid providers have remained. South West London Law Centres' shortlisting is a testament not just to their perseverance but to the team's dedication and excellence.
"Legal aid cuts have profoundly challenged the way Law Centres work. Avon and Bristol Law Centre's Legal Advocacy Support Project is a creative response to this challenge, connecting in-house expertise with student volunteers for the benefit of clients and the community. We are delighted at the shortlistings and wish both Law Centres every success."
Winners will be announced at an awards ceremony in London on 25th May 2016, hosted by the BBC's Andrew Marr.