Pro bono work celebrated in annual awards

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City firm Linklaters and national firm Shoosmiths are among those recognised tonight at the annual LawWorks pro bono awards.

Linklaters won the award for the best contribution by a law firm. It was nominated by the Mary Ward Legal Centre for its ‘unwavering and substantial’ support for the centre, including negotiating its move to new premises. Linklaters also seconds staff to provide legal assistance at a legal clinic run by the centre.

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City firm Simmons & Simmons was highly commended in the same category, for its work with South West London Law Centres.

Shoosmiths won the award for the best contribution by a regional firm. In 2009, the firm set up a pro bono advice clinic in conjunction with CommuniCare and the University of Reading, supported by LawWorks. The clinic’s success led to the model being replicated in Northampton with the Northampton and District CAB and the University of Northampton.

The firm is also involved in the Business in the Community pro bono help scheme to encourage firms in Birmingham to engage in pro bon activities.

The award for the best in-house contribution went to the legal team at Virgin Money, which has undertaken a wide variety of pro bono work through LawWorks projects, including with Newcastle Law Centre.

The team has been instrumental in setting up Northern Money, a financial inclusion programme, which provides information to the financially excluded to ensure they have safe access to affordable borrowing.

In addition, the entire legal team volunteered 20 hours of their own time to help convert a 200 square foot piece of land into an allotment patch for a local special school called Percey Hedley.

The individual contribution award went to solicitor Sheena Teli, who has devoted over 700 hours of her own time volunteering with the LawWorks Choices programme. She works with North Kensington Law Centre’s anti-trafficking project.

Andrew Lewis, an associate at City firm Nabarro, was highly commended in the same category after being nominated by an individual client he had helped at St Luke’s Legal Advice Clinic in London.

Paul Stone, a partner at national firm DLA Piper, won the award for best partner-level engagement. He has spearheaded the firm’s involvement with The Manual Bravo Project in Leeds, a charitable organisation that assists asylum seekers with appeals and fresh claims, and has encouraged other local law firms to get involved.

DLA and LawWorks have recently launched a sister project in London to replicate the model in Leeds.

The Law Society’s Junior Law Division Pro Bono Award was awarded to Alex Passmore, who works at the University of Plymouth overseeing work carried out by law students.

He was nominated by South West Employment Rights Centre for his work providing supervision to law students volunteering at the centre and for his own work as a volunteer adviser.

The award for the best partnership went to Birmingham Central Library Legal Advice Clinic. Four firms - DLA, Eversheds, Wragge & Co and Squire Sanders - work in partnership with two law schools and have advised hundreds of individuals since it was set up in 2008.

The award for the best co-ordinator went to Robert Powell, the corporate social responsibility manager at City firm CMS Cameron McKenna. He was recognised for organising the wide range of pro bono work done by those at his firm. Powell was also key to the establishment of the firm’s 50 hours corporate social responsibility target for all partners and employees, which has seen a 66% increase in pro bono work in the firm.

LawWorks’ internal award went to volunteer Neil Wotherspoon who is a retired IT consultant.

The nominations were judged by the former attorney general Lady Scotland, Law Society president John Wotton and legal journalist Joshua Rozenberg. For the JLD award, the judging panel also included the JLD chair Hekim Hannan.

Law Society president John Wotton said: 'Congratulations to all those recognised in the annual LawWorks pro bono awards. The dedication and generosity demonstrated by the winners and shortlisted nominees are an inspiration and a credit to our profession.

LawWorks chairman Paul Newdick said: 'The standard of the contributions by shortlisted candidates and by the winners in all categories impresses more and more every year. We are hugely grateful for the invaluable contributions by all our members at a critical time for access to justice in England and Wales. Many congratulations and all our thanks to these lawyers who are making a real and sustainable difference.'

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