Birmingham Pro Bono Group scoops two awards

CEPLER is delighted to announce that the dedication and commitment of our students has been recognised in last week's LawWorks and Attorney General Student Pro Bono Awards.

Dr Hakeem Yusuf and colleagues at Babcock University Pro Bono Group Committee with Linden Thomas.

Birmingham Law School was shortlisted in three categories: Best Contribution by a Law School; Best Contribution by a Team of Students; and Best Contribution by an Individual Student. At the prestigious ceremony, held in the House of Commons in the presence of the Attorney General, Jeremy Wright QC MP, we were thrilled to receive awards in two categories.

The Birmingham Free Legal Advice Group Coordinators were presented with the Award for the Best Contribution by a Team of Students. The FLAG Coordinators are a team of nine dedicated student volunteers who are on the frontline in dealing with all public enquiries in relation to the clinic. They devote three to five hours each week (often longer) liaising with clients and the profession partners who supervise the clinic, to coordinate appointments and guide students through the process. Congratulations to: Afsarah Haque-Hassan, Amelia Ayres, Katie Goodman, Jojo Navarro-Schrank, Olufunlola Oluwole, Symrun Kaur Gakhal, Gurpreet Sandhu, Lauren Moroney and Simone Thomas.

Balancing the demands of being a FLAG Coordinator alongside final year was made easy by a team of fellow coordinators who were always professional and organised; as well as having so much support from the CEPLER administrators! From client to coordinator, to student volunteer, to professional volunteer, to the CEPLER team, every individual involved with the Free Legal Advice Group led to its success at the 2018 Pro Bono Awards. It was an unexpected accomplishment, and a wonderful end to my time at university. 

FLAG Coordinator Jojo Navarro-Schrank

Our second award, Best Contribution by an Individual Student, recognised the outstanding contribution of Catherine Ruta, Pro Bono Group Chair. Catherine is a committed member of the Pro Bono Group and her contribution has had a significant impact on her fellow students and her clients. She volunteers with the Birmingham Personal Support Unit, offering emotional and practical support to litigants in person who are navigating their way through complex court processes. In her role as Committee Chair, she oversees fundraising activity, organised recruitment and has worked hard to promote pro bono to fellow students, rejuvenating the Group's social media in the process.

Dr Hakeem Yusuf and colleagues at Babcock University Catherine Ruta with Attorney General Jeremy Wright QC MP.

Being a part of the Birmingham Pro Bono community has been the single most rewarding experience of my life. Access to Justice is among the most fundamental of human rights, and I am in awe of how our team has united to fight for it. I'm very pleased that I have been able to make a small impact in this regard, and I work every day to inspire others to do the same. Though I am very humbled to be recognised for my efforts, the award for individual contribution is anything but. Winning this award is a testament to the dedication of our volunteers, Linden and our faculty support, and Lesley and our administrative team.

Catherine Ruta, Birmingham Pro Bono Group Chair

Linden Thomas, CEPLER Manager, Solicitor and Director of Pro Bono, accompanied the committee members to the Awards Ceremony and commented:

I am extremely proud that our students have received this recognition from the LawWorks and Attorney General Awards. These honours reflect their hard work and the significant contribution they make to improving access to justice for members of our local community. Our student committee and volunteers give up a considerable amount of time, alongside their studies, in the service of vulnerable people who may not otherwise be able to afford advice. Without such dedication we could not sustain the demand. We are also grateful to our pro bono partners from the private and third sector who make this possible.

Congratulations also go to the Pro Bono Group Fundraising Coordinators - Ben Crosby, Jacqueline Angelakis and Victoria Adeturinmo - for receiving a commendation in the LawWorks and Bar Pro Bono Unit Law School Challenge 2017/18. This annual fundraiser makes a valuable contribution to the work of LawWorks and the Bar Pro Bono Unit and this year was one of the most competitive challenges yet. 

Close up of award