Our aim is that the Fellowship is a route to a long and rewarding career using law as a tool for social justice, with Fellows going on to become leaders in their field and important advocates for access to justice and the rule of law.
The Fellowship is made up of four integrated parts:
Each year we recruit and appoint host organisations by Spring, and then publish details of these organisations and job descriptions on the New Fellowship Opportunities page in early Summer. Potential Fellows apply in August/September and successful fellows are recruited in October/November to commence work in their host organisation in the following January (April for Northern Ireland).
Fellows will be employed by their host organisation who will be responsible for the recruitment, supervision and support of fellows. The wider support, training and opportunities component of the scheme are organised by The Legal Education Foundation and its partners.
The Legal Education Foundation focuses on the essential role of legal education in helping people and organisations to understand and use the law as a tool for change. Too often people across the UK are unable to get support and expertise that may be needed for them to access justice. The Foundation recognised that in order to ensure the law is there for everyone who needs it, communities must have talented and committed social welfare lawyers, and so the Justice First Fellowship was formed in 2014.
The first nine Fellows started their training contracts in early 2015. To date the fellowship has supported seven cohorts to qualify. The vast majority of these alumni continue to use their training and networks for social justice, many in the same host organisations where they first became Fellows.
The scheme has been supported by a range of partners including BPP, Unbound Philanthropy, Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, BBC Children in Need, City Bridge Trust, AB Charitable Trust, Royal Bank of Scotland, and commercial law firms.
Social welfare law is a broad term covering areas such as debt, housing, employment, welfare benefits, community care, education, immigration and asylum. It is often referred to as ‘the law of everyday life’. Leaving legal problems unresolved contributes to a range of adverse consequences, such as poor mental health, and prevents progress in many areas of life.
Changes to legal aid and pressure on local authority budgets mean that vulnerable people are increasingly unable to access legal help for these issues. Legal advice helps people to take more control over their lives and secure fair treatment and protection.
Training opportunities for aspiring social welfare lawyers are scarce, prompting concerns about how the next generation of specialists will emerge as experienced lawyers retire. The Justice First Fellowship helps to address this by enabling lawyers to complete their training and go on to a career in which they use the law to bring about positive change in people’s lives.
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