On Wednesday 9 November 2016, we held a careers event, 'Becoming a Legal Aid Lawyer', at London South Bank University. Young Legal Aid Lawyers co-chairs Oliver Carter and Rachel Francis presented an introduction to YLAL and a brief history of legal aid, from the Poor Prisoners Defence Act 1903, which introduced criminal legal aid for defendants in the higher criminal courts, to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 ('LASPO'), which wholly or partially removed a number of areas of law from the scope of legal aid.
Ollie and Rachel ended their presentation by reflecting on recent political events at home and abroad, saying: "We live in a time when human rights and the rule of law are under threat, even in Western democracies. Across the pond, America has just elected as its President a man who has promised to ban an entire religion of 1.6 billion people from entering the country, to bring back torture and to imprison his opponent. In this country, the government has pledged to repeal the Human Rights Act and the Prime Minister has used her speech at the Conservative party conference to rail against 'activist left-wing human rights lawyers'. We at Young Legal Aid Lawyers are proud to be activist human rights lawyers, united by our commitment to social justice. The people we represent are often among the most vulnerable in society - people with disabilities, immigrants and asylum seekers, those in poverty, prisoners - and by becoming a legal aid lawyer, you can help to protect those people and defend the rule of law."
Our Careers Panel of experts from the solicitors' profession, the Bar and the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx) then spoke about their careers so far, what they look for when recruiting junior employees and what advice they would give to aspiring lawyers. We then had a Q&A with some great questions from the audience, fantastic advice and lively debate from the Panel. The Careers Panel was chaired by YLAL committee member Maia Cohen-Lask and featured the following speakers:
- Jane Pritchard, a solicitor and head of social welfare law at TV Edwards. Jane is committed to working in social welfare law, including public law, community care and housing, and has acted in landmark cases in the High Court, Court of Appeal and House of Lords. Jane was a finalist at the Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year Awards in 2014. Jane provided detailed and practical advice on what employers are looking for when recruiting paralegals and trainees, as well as fantastic tips on how to begin a career in legal aid.
- Amean Elgadhy, a barrister at 1 Pump Court Chambers who sits on the chambers pupillage committee. Amean practises in both criminal defence and family law, and has a particular interest in youth justice and representing clients who suffer from mental ill-health. Amean regularly represents clients in the Crown Court, Family Court and High Court, and has also appeared in the Court of Appeal. Prior to coming to the Bar, Amean was a legal advisor for the drugs charity Release. Amean spoke about his career so far and gave advice on possible ways of funding the Bar Professional Training Course, such as through scholarships offered by the Inns.
- Paul Turner, a Fellow of the Institute of Legal Executives, a partner and head of legal services at Barnes Harrild & Dyer, a firm in London specialising in immigration, asylum and human rights. Paul spoke about recent landmark immigration law cases which he has worked on and his path to qualification, first by obtaining the immigration and asylum accreditation and then by qualifing as a legal executive.
The Introduction to Legal Aid presentation delivered by Ollie and Rachel is attached below, as are the excellent slides prepared by Jane for the event. YLAL would like to thank all of our speakers - Jane, Amean and Paul, as well as London South Bank University for kindly hosting the event and providing drinks and canapés afterwards.