LEF fellowships aim to create ‘social justice law’ leaders
The Legal Education Foundation (LEF) is aiming to create the ‘future leaders’ of the social welfare law sector with an ambitious fellowship scheme, which pays firms up to £75,000 to host trainees.
The Justice First Fellowship (JFF) scheme, which launched last year, is in the process of recruiting seven aspiring lawyers with a proven interest in social justice issues to take up training contracts at selected organisations (see box).
The deadline for applications for the 2016–18 scheme is 15 September 2015, and the LEF says it expects competition to be strong. In its inaugural recruitment round last year, it had 161 applications for a similar number of places, but LEF chief executive Matthew Smerdon says he anticipates interest in the scheme will grow the more it becomes established.
The JFF scheme is loosely modelled on similar schemes in America, such as Equal Justice Works, a Washington DC-based organisation whose mission statement is to ‘create a just society by mobilizing the next generation of lawyers committed to equal justice’.
Smerdon says the LEF’s aim in setting up the JFF is not just to subsidise training places for a handful of hard-pressed organisations, but ‘to create a movement’.
Successful candidates will receive additional training in things like dealing with the media, and be expected to complete a project, related to their organisation’s work, such as developing links or services for hard-to-reach clients.
Sue Bent (pictured), director of Central England Law Centre, which is set to receive its second JFF Scheme trainee, says last year’s candidate has been developing links with BME women who may find it difficult to report domestic violence: ‘She is developing our “Safeplace” service, which aims to give women back some control by making them aware of their rights and the options they may have.’
Smerdon acknowledges that there is no guarantee organisations will be able to keep trainees on beyond the two years of the scheme. ‘We have to be realistic, given the pressure the sector is under,’ he says.
The bulk of the £1.2m cost of funding the current batch of trainees over the next three years is being met by the LEF, with contributions from two other charitable foundations, the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and Unbound Philanthropy. It also includes £400,000 donated this year by City firms, including Allen & Overy and Herbert Smith Freehills.
The JFF scheme is open to private practitioners and not-for-profit agencies, alike. Host organisations receive grant funding of an average of £75,000 to cover the cost of the trainee’s salary, supervision and training.
The nine 2016–2018 organisations are:
Avon & Bristol Law Centre
Ben Hoare Bell
Child Poverty Action Group
Central England Law Centre*
Greenwich Housing Rights
Govan Law Centre1Second year of involvement with the scheme.
Law Centre (Northern Ireland)
Legal Services Agency