Members of Duncan Lewis Solicitors volunteered their specialist legal assistance and advice to an impressive public turnout at the firm’s Pro Bono Drop In session on Tuesday the 22nd April 2014.
Members of the public were able to visit Duncan Lewis Dalston Branch and receive free expert legal advice in a number of legal areas, including Immigration Law. The 22nd April session saw an increased turnout of clients, and Solicitors at Duncan Lewis volunteered free expert legal advice to a large number of vulnerable clients, many seeking advice in Immigration Law matters.
The work and assistance provided by Duncan Lewis Solicitors received great appraisal from many clients, who due to the vulnerable nature of many of the cases brought to the Firm, means that legal assistance and advice is difficult to obtain.
Since its inception in 2009, the Firm’s Tuesday Drop In Session has become one of London’s busiest and most comprehensive Pro Bono advice sessions. The areas of law in which advice is provided includes; Housing / Welfare Benefits/ Matrimonial / Family/ Child Care / Immigration / Employment / Property & Landlord Tenant.
The Drop In Session boasts appropriately accredited specialist immigration advisers each Tuesday along with Supervisor Status Solicitors in the other areas of law supported by Trainee Solicitors. All admitted and nonadmitted staff that give advice are specialists within their own field.
A number of the Solicitors who volunteered their service commented on the session, stressing on the importance of providing free legal advice and the nature of the service in London’s legal society;
Ahmed Sesay, Immigration Solicitor and Supervisor;
"The Pro Bono advice session bridges barriers to legal advice without cost constraints. It empowers the public to know their rights and conveys how such rights can be enforced.
In my experience, its attraction is not only the social and legal vacuum that it fills, but its relaxed and informal setting which helps blend Law and social needs admirably."
Joanna Sherman Immigration Caseworker;
"Speaking from personal experience, I have found the Pro-bono sessions very rewarding as they are often attended by incredibly vulnerable individuals who are desperately in need of guidance. I have seen a number of walk-ins who were initially intimidated by the formality of legal proceedings or felt they are not getting an adequate level of service from their current solicitors, and we have usually been in a position to take on their cases ourselves.
In what, unfortunately, constitutes the vast majority of cases that come to the Pro Bono sessions, however, are individuals who are of very limited means and whose immigration matters now fall outside the scope of Legal Aid. The brief consultations they receive from us at the sessions probably constitute the only legal advice readily available to them."
Andy Tieu Immigration Caseworker;
"In light of the large and over-excessive cuts of legal aid within the field of immigration [and no doubt pending cuts in the future], the Pro Bono sessions have provided a beacon of light to those with whom the Legal Aid regime should have protected from the very start."
Younes Ech-Chadli Trainee Immigration Solicitor;
"I am regularly on the Pro Bono rota. I can say from an immigration perspective, I have noted an upward trend in terms of the number of people coming to see us due to the cuts in Legal Aid. In addition, with our expertise in judicial review, clients are sometimes referred to us by other firms.
I saw a client with a very complex immigration case. I spent a good 40 minutes taking instructions and advising him. At the end, he thanked me profusely and said that my advice was invaluable."
Uche Uwaezuoke Immigration Supervisor;
"I would like to say the drop in sessions seem to provide a vital service to the people that I see and in respect of Immigration specifically there is normally a full reception area every Tuesday so even though when it is not my allocated day I do try and help out. For the clients that fall out of scope in respect of Legal Aid for Immigration matters see it has service that they can utilise as private fees are just too expensive. Some are just desperate for advice and some actually have a lot of merits to their cases and the Pro Bono service is their only route to resolving their immigration status. Most are very thankful for the assistance and a lot have recommended others to attend. The need is obviously there and the cutbacks in regards to Legal Aid is having a detrimental impact on the most needful and vulnerable in the community. Long may the drop in session continue!"
2014 has seen Duncan Lewis receive much appraisal for their commitment to Pro Bono work. The Firm were named Law Works Firm of the Month in February for recognition of their ongoing Pro Bono work and support of the Solicitors Pro Bono Group.
The Firm also launched their Pro Bono clinic in association with Law Works Cymru in March. Much like the Firm’s Dalston Drop-In sessions, the legal clinic operates on a weekly basis from the Duncan Lewis Cardiff branch and offers Pro Bono advice in the areas of Housing, Welfare Benefits, Family, Child Care, Landlord & Tenant, Community care and Public Law which are supported by Specialist Directors, Solicitors and Trainee Solicitors. Members of the public seeking legal advice in these areas are urged to attend the free sessions where they can receive free advice from qualified and accredited Solicitors.
Duncan Lewis further support numerous other Pro Bono activities: ‘Rights for Women’ Charity where Duncan Lewis Women Solicitors provide telephone advice for women; Fortnightly Social Welfare & Family Law legal clinic at the offices of ‘Turkish Cypriot Women’s Association’ (TCWA) in Haringey where Turkish Speaking Women Lawyers provide advice to the Women’s Organisation; ‘Lewisham Reach’ supported by Lawyers from Duncan Lewis Lewisham office in which the outreach service looks to target help for 21 – 55 year olds living in the Borough; Duncan Lewis Dalston lawyers support the University of East London Legal Clinic; numerous other CAB’s & legal clinics supported by Duncan Lewis lawyers and Pro Bono Committee members.