We are thrilled to announce that we have been shortlisted for four awards at the LawWorks Pro Bono Awards, including the LawWorks Cymru award, family and child care solicitors Hemna Fargi and Liljana Shehaj have both been shortlisted for the Junior Lawyers Division Pro Bono award, and family and child care director Emine Mehmet has been shortlisted for the Best Contribution by an Individual award.
The awards celebrate the best legal pro bono activities undertaken by organisations and individuals and the positive impact they have had on those helped.
The LawWorks Cymru Award recognises the pro bono initiatives carried out in Wales, and our Wales-based immigration department has been consistently providing pro bono services to those most in need. The team, led by immigration and public law director Vinita Templeton, recognise the difficulties that many people in the local communities face, and have sought out relevant charities, including Asylum Justice, to collaborate with to best enable them to assist those in need.
Director Vinita Templeton continues to take on significant pro bono work in relation to Commonwealth nationals, providing essential advice to those who have been unfairly let down as highlighted by the Windrush Scandal and also prioritising cases of Commonwealth veterans who have experienced significant historical injustices post-discharge from the army.
As a result of many applications for legal status falling out of scope for legal aid despite those seeking the status being highly vulnerable, the Wales-based team undertakes a number of significant pro bono initiatives in order to tackle this issue and ensure access to justice to all. They also assists frequently on a pro bono basis with the submission of Exceptional Case Funding applications where a case falls out of scope of legal aid, but is identified as meritorious and in need of legal aid funding on any exceptional basis.
Nominated for the Junior Lawyers Division Pro Bono award, Hemna Fargi is a family and child care solicitor, dealing with a variety of child care matters including private child care applications, divorce matters and financial relief. Since 2018, every alternative week, Hemna has provided pro bono assistance at Milton Keynes CAB, Milton Keynes ACT, Women’s Aid Northampton, Hatfield Surgery, Eve Surgery, Luton Women’s Aid, Bedford CAB, and Leighton Buzzard CAB, where she has been able to assist countless individuals. Clients who come through these service providers are usually very vulnerable, scared and often victims of domestic abuse. Hemna ensures that they are contacted immediately without any delay and that they are allocated to the appropriate solicitor or paralegal who specialises in that area of family law so that the client’s matter is dealt with swiftly and with care and sensitivity.
Hemna is working towards expanding her pro bono services to other service providers such as schools and Universities where vulnerable parents and students require free legal advice in respect of family law matters. Furthering her aim, to inspire the next generation of lawyers and promote a career in law.
Also nominated for the Junior Lawyers Division Pro Bono award, Liljana Shehaj is a solicitor in the family and child care department. Liljana’s commitment to protecting victims of abuse is unwavering, she devotes around four hours of her own time every week to helping vulnerable women and in particular those with limited English, offering a safe space for them to seek help.
She undertakes regular pro bono work for three separate branches of Solace Women’s Aid assisting service users in the Caledonian Road area, Waltham Forest area and Enfield / Haringey area via monthly advice surgeries for all three branches. These sessions took place in person prior to the pandemic, but Liljana has continued the surgeries during the pandemic either on the telephone or via zoom. She also provides Solace support workers with brief general advice on legal matters as and when they contact her, which tends to be on a daily basis. Going the extra mile and capacity allowing, Liljana also offers pro bono advice sessions to Solace service users if they have an urgent hearing and the next session is not until after the hearing.
In addition to the above, Liljana also advises clients during advice surgeries which her team has set up with Enfield Citizen Advice, Latin American Women’s Aid, Shelter, Refuge and through the Duncan Lewis Pro Bono advice sessions on Tuesday’s at the firm’s Dalston office.
Lastly, family and child care director Emine Mehmet has been shortlisted for the Best Contribution by an Individual award. Emine is the Head of the dedicated Duncan Lewis Pro Bono Committee and spearheads the pro bono initiatives at the firm. Emine has been chairing the committee since 2009 and through her management and initiative the firm, prior to the pandemic, was able to provide services through over 70 various pro bono clinics and surgeries, advising in the areas of housing, child care, family, and immigration law among others.
Emine recognises that there are people who do not qualify for legal aid and yet cannot afford to instruct solicitors on a private fee basis. The pro bono clinics organised, overseen and/or attended by Emine have sought to address this social need, operating robust sessions to equip individuals to obtain practical legal advice. Prior to the pandemic, for over ten years the firm’s Dalston office has held weekly pro bono clinics assisting all of those who attend.
Since 2017, and starting back up again this winter, Emine has dedicated her time to assist the law students at the University of East London (UEL) in their pro bono legal advice centre. Emine’s longstanding commitment to inspire the next generation of lawyers and impart her practical knowledge is incredibly valuable to the students.
Emine has consistently and passionately provided pro bono assistance to those most in need, in particularly vulnerable women that have suffered domestic abuse. To name a few, Emine provides monthly surgeries at Hestia, Solace and Latin American Women's Aid (LAWA). She also provides pro bono advice over the phone via Redbridge MARAC.
We are incredibly proud of the pro bono work carried out by all of our lawyers, especially Hemna, Liljana, Emine and everybody in the Wales-based team and we are delighted that their commitment has been recognised and acknowledged by LawWorks through these shortlistings.
This year’s awards will be held on Tuesday 7th December. We offer huge congratulations to all and wish them the best of luck at the ceremony.