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Access to justice: pursuing a career in legal aid

Access to Justice

Last night over 80 aspiring young lawyers came to HJA for an evening of insights into the reality of life as a legal aid lawyer. Staff from different departments shared their experiences of life on the frontline in seeking to provide access to justice to those in need of legal representation.

Our guest Andrew Caplen, former President of the Law Society, joined us to speak of his conviction that the rule of law depends on real access to justice for those who need it. Referring to a sweeping view of legal history – from the book of Proverbs (“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves”), to Magna Carta to Nelson Mandela – he urged students not to lose their “high ideals” as they think about and embark on a legal career.

The firm’s Senior Partner Patrick Allen spoke about the core principles upon which the firm was founded 40 years ago and the challenges of legal aid work over this time – and yet how it remains a worthwhile, stimulating and crucial area of HJA’s work.

Suzanne Bird presenting to studentsSixth formers, undergrad and postgraduate students and aspiring lawyers all came together, commenting on how rare it is for law schools to be promoting legal aid work. This event provided a unique opportunity for prospective lawyers to hear about the need and value of the work. Hearing a variety of stories from across the spectrum – from clients facing homelessness, to children being taken into care, to the action that can be taken against the police and prison service for deaths in custody – made for an envisioning evening.

Guests have said:

  • “This has enlightened and inspired me.”
  • “It was fantastic to hear people working in the field.”
  • “I know very little about legal aid but this event was very useful in highlighting the realities of the job and different practice areas it affects. I thought the quality of the speakers was great, very informative and passionate about the work they do.”
  • “If I could be half the lawyer you all are I will have succeeded!”
  • “Not sure whether I wanted to go into law at all – now this is definitely what I want to do. Nice to know there is more to law than money.”
  • “I’ve attended many many career events since I’ve been at university and this has been the first that has left me genuinely inspired! Thank you.”

We trust that this will become an annual event in which HJA continues to play its unique role in educating the next generation about the justice system and the ever growing need for access to justice.