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Brum Law Firms Sponsor Community Lawyers

Birmingham Law Society has helped raise £25,000 to fund two trainee solicitor posts at Birmingham Community Law Centre (BCLC).

The organisation’s pro bono committee lobbied local law firms to provide the funding, which will help ensure BCLC can continue to provide free legal advice on matters including welfare benefits, immigration, housing, community care and public law

Five BLS member firms - Eversheds Sutherland, Gowling WLG, Hogan Lovells, Mills & Reeve and Shakespeare Martineau – have pledged cash support for the two-year training contract terms.

The Legal Education Foundation’s (LEF) Justice First Fellowship scheme, set up to help cash-strapped law centres continue to offer training contracts to aspirant social justice lawyers, has provided £145,000.

Anisa Altaf and Brooke Toon will take up the training posts on 6 February.

Anisa is a law graduate from the University of Birmingham and has worked at the Ministry of Justice as well as a number of law firms in Birmingham. She completed a Masters degree through the University of Law last year.

Brooke studied at Nottingham Trent University. She has worked in criminal law and as a volunteer for Citizens Advice.

BCLC was established in 2013, following the closure of Birmingham Law Centre due to the cuts to legal aid. Part of Central England Law Centre, BCLC – based in Walford Road, Sparkbrook – provides free legal advice to some of the city’s most vulnerable people.

Linden Thomas, of Birmingham Law Society’s pro bono committee, said: “We are delighted that five local firms have stepped up to the plate to support this important initiative. The deep cuts to the legal aid budget mean it’s no exaggeration to say that without these funds, vulnerable people in this city would be left to their own devices to navigate complex areas of law.”

Sue Bent, chief executive officer of Central England Law Centre, said: “The funding from BLS member firms signals support within the profession for the important work undertaken by social welfare lawyers. Although the LEF has a budget for this it seeks investment from others and I am delighted that Birmingham’s private sector has responded.

“We had 18 applications for the post. The LEF was represented on the interview panel and they agreed it was impossible to choose between the two best candidates. As a result, we are thrilled to have appointed two Justice First Fellows.”