The Legal Education Foundation will enable eight prospective welfare lawyers to undertake training contracts every year for the foreseeable future through its Justice First Fellowship.
The LEF, established by the proceeds of the College of Law’s sale to Montagu Private Equity, has mainly focused on law centres for this, its first year.
Fellows will undertake a two-year training contract at organisations including Coventry Law Centre, Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit and Coram Children’s Legal Centre.
They will take charge of projects such as establishing legal advice for women held in immigration detention and increasing the number of domestic violence victims able to access legal advice despite legal aid requirements asking victims to provide evidence of abuse.
The current eight trainees are all women, with women making up 75 per cent of the 161 applications the Justice First Fellowship received. The LEF has made grants of £75,000 to each host organisation, which will cover a two-year salary and running costs.
The fellowship is set against a huge decline in the number of training contracts available at social welfare and legal aid firms, due to austerity and legal aid cuts.
LEF CEO Matthew Smerdon told Lawyer 2B that the fellowship’s aim was to create the opportunity for fellows to become the welfare lawyers of the future, adding, “Over the next decade we should add nearly one hundred lawyers to this area.”