Solicitor, Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit
My parents wanted me to be a doctor, but I found that I was really good at picking up a document, analysing it and finding counter-arguments. I enjoy being able to read a Home Office decision, apply my mind to it, carry out some research and then present an arguable case on behalf of a client.
What makes me want to keep on practising this area of law is the sheer satisfaction I get. I work mainly with victims of domestic violence. What I can give to them – in terms of stability by sorting out their immigration status – I wouldn’t get with other areas of law.
I studied law and did my LPC at the University of Huddersfield. My training contract was with my current employer, where I was previously a case worker. I am a Justice First Fellow, which means my contract was sponsored by the Legal Education Foundation.
Working with legal aid is the hardest challenge I’ve faced – constant changes to the specification, funding cuts, tendering and so on. There are financial concerns for the future, which a lot of other organisations share, but we have been able to access other funding. That gives us a degree of security. We have been here in this corner of north Manchester for so long and we are still standing. That speaks volumes.
I enjoy my work because of the change I can make to someone’s life. I meet people from many different countries and cultures. It is not just about what specialist advice you can give, it is also what you take away from that client. No two are ever facing the same situation.
Memorable career highlights include a Jamaican national who had leave to remain as spouse of a British national. He served three years for a first-time offence. He was on bail and challenging his deportation to Jamaica when social services brought his 13-year-old child from a previous marriage to his doorstep. The mother was unable to care for the child, who was in trouble at school and mixing with the wrong company. If my client did not take him on, the boy would go into care. The father completely turned around the child’s life.
A year later, the Home Office refused his representations and he came to us for the appeal. We made extensive representations about the impact on his teenage son and potential costs to the public if the child went into foster care long-term. We won. It was post-LASPO, so no funding. The Home Office appealed and lost. They tried to appeal to the court of appeal but lost again. He is now being given status.
The immigration rules get tougher and tougher to meet almost every year and people do get disheartened and are scared to come forward for help.
Cuts to public funding have compromised access to quality legal representation. However, there are some incredible immigration solicitors and barristers whose passion to get justice for a very vulnerable client group means we do see some fantastic results in the courts.