Derry is to benefit from second round of social welfare training contracts in Justice First Fellowship Scheme.
The Legal Education Foundation (TLEF) has this week opened applications for seven new training contracts in social welfare law, one of which is to be based for the first time at the Law Centre (NI), which has offices in Derry as well as Belfast.
The positions with this and six other host organisations in England and Scotland and are aimed at law graduates who have passed the Legal Practice Course (LPC) or their Irish and Scottish equivalents in a month’s time.
The aim of the programme is to train a new generation of lawyers working with vulnerable people in the areas of housing, welfare benefits, disability, immigration, domestic abuse and child welfare.
In their first year, for example, some Fellows have already been giving advice about local authority duties owed to children in need, advising parents who are respondents in proceedings involving children in care and helping women victims of domestic violence.
Law Centre (NI) Director Glenn Jordan said: “We are delighted to partner with TLEF and to the host Northern Ireland’s first Justice Fellowship.
“This is a unique opportunity for a young advocate to gain practical experience in a wide range of social welfare law.
“The successful candidate will be a core element of an experienced team of passionate lawyers committed to improving the lives of vulnerable people throughout Northern Ireland and become part of the story of a long-established and deeply respected social justice agency.”
The applicants, who serve a two-year term as Fellows for the duration of their training contracts, will also receive regular mentorship and guidance from The Legal Education Foundation.
TLEF makes grants of an average of £75,000 to each host organisation to cover the two-year salary, supervision, and training courses. This is the second year that the programme has been running. TLEF Chief Executive Matthew Smerdon, said: “With such steep cuts to legal aid and many other areas of public spending, the need for social welfare lawyers has never been greater.
“When we established the scheme in partnership with the Esmeìe Fairbairn Foundation and Unbound Philanthropy last year, our hope was that we could help find and develop the next generation of passionate social justice advocates.
“The sponsors and host organisations are strengthening their support for the Fellowships. Together we can create wonderful opportunities for fulfilling careers that help the most vulnerable people in our communities.”
During the training contract, the Fellows will be required to establish a project that will advance the advice sector and access to justice in some way.
The Fellowships are funded by TLEF, Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and Unbound Philanthrop along with Allen & Overy, DAC Beachcroft, Herbert Smith Freehills, Osborne Clarke and TLT & BPP University
The seven successful applicants will also receive additional support and opportunities to contribute to wider access of the social justice movement.
Competition for the seven fellowships is likely to be strong; applicants must be able to demonstrate a commitment to social welfare law and evidence of good academic attainment.
Applications will be accepted online via the TLEF website until midnight on 15 September 2015 to commence in January 2016.