Host Organisation: South West London Law Centres

Pamela Lalbachan

Pamela has recently made a career change into the legal profession after working in the media and the arts. Her arts career began at the Sydney Opera House while living in Sydney and latterly spent many years working on BBC Radio 4 programmes. Pamela completed an undergraduate degree in Spanish and Latin American Studies while in Australia alongside writing her international Caribbean cookbook. Her interest in food supported a tangential writing and tutoring career in cookery. Alongside Pamela’s passion for food and broadcasting, she spent much of her time supporting social justice issues which is where her move into law meets with her strong commitment to support access to justice and to work towards seeing justice done.

Project – Increasing the number of clients we can help with benefits applications while at the same time increasing our capacity to take on more work

Many of our clients find filling in benefits forms very difficult but are unable to access a service that will assist them. This is particularly onerous for those for whom English is second language or who have a disability.

The Law Centre gets a lot of applications from volunteering either to do individual work or to work towards a project. We hope to offer students an opportunity to work on this project to increase access to justice while at the same time gaining very practical experience that we hope will support them well in getting onto training contracts or paralegal work.

By increasing the number of clients we can help with filling in their applications, and following through to appeals where relevant, we will also potentially increase the work coming into the Law Centres. We envisage that the effect of directing a flow of clients to the law centre will increase access to justice. We hope students will learn aspects of file craft; interviewing skills; case preparation and in some cases representation. Templates and guidance though a typical case will help students to deliver the casework through guided supervision. We aim to develop a portfolio of work/evidence of work and skills the students have learned as the project develops. We envisage that what the students will have learned will be useful for them to make progress in the next steps in their careers.

After the appropriate training, I will be well placed to see what needs to be done to support students and run the project. The theoretical study that students engage in at college and law skill does not offer the practical skills they so often need to begin a career in law. We will stay in touch with people who have volunteered at the law centre and monitor if the experience was beneficial to them in making progress with their career.

The law centre will benefit by being able to carry out work that is no longer in scope of legal aid. Further grant funding in the current climate is unlikely to pay for a full service that was previously covered by legal aid. Further, if we can show that supervised work through students/volunteers can increase capacity it is an easier ask to find funding for a supervisor post to support this type of work.

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