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WINNER: Refugee Action

The independent national charity Refugee Action launched Access to Justice in April 2012 following concerns that the current legal-aid system was denying legal representation to those fleeing persecution. The aim of the project is not just to assist asylum seekers but also to explore whether the legal-aid system excludes the most vulnerable from the protection it is supposed to afford them. The project is still in its early stages but, so far, it has assisted 24 asylum seekers in overturning the refusal of legal aid, representing a 71 per cent success rate.

This pioneering project takes on asylum cases to prove their merits and secure asylum seekers legal representation. One example of this is D, an activist in a pro-Arab political group in Iran that was perceived by the authorities as being anti-regime. D fled with his wife and child, fearing persecution by the authorities following the arrest of a fellow activist. His asylum claim was refused and on receipt of the decision, his legal representative wrote to D refusing controlled legal representation (CLR) funding. It was apparent that the Home Office had misunderstood the core of his account, something that would have been clear from reading D’s asylum interview record.

Access to Justice appealed on D’s behalf. The appeal was, after further refusals from the Home Office, allowed and he and his family were recognised as refugees.

About Therium Litigation Funding

Therium is pleased to have sponsored the 2013 Lawyer Award for Ethical Initiative of the Year.

As one of the UK’s leading litigation funders, Therium is involved on an ongoing basis in helping to provide access to justice. In doing so we recognise that there are many firms and individuals in the legal profession who freely give their time and skills to help others.

The Lawyer Award recognises the contributions made not just by the winner or the nominees, but all those who make a contribution in this way, and we are delighted to show our support for their work in this area.

2ND: Coventry Law Centre

Coventry Law Centre provides social welfare law advice to the Troubled Families project. Troubled Families is a government initiative that will run for three years as it develops new approaches to helping people with complex needs. The law centre's input offers access to justice and is intended to demonstrate the continuing need for government funding for this type of work, following the withdrawal of legal aid. It will work with 75 families over three years and seeks to show that specialist legal advice is often a key factor to success in working with troubled families and to prove that future policy should reflect this. It anticipates that the project will show the value of timely intervention, face-to-face advice and the trust that develops between the adviser and the client when working with clients who have multiple and complex needs.

3RD: White & Case

The charity Lawyers without Borders and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime asked White & Case to create a global database of every human-trafficking court case that could be found and provide officially documented instances of human trafficking for use by judges, prosecutors, policy makers and other interested parties. The firm's goal was to create a tool that could be used to fight human trafficking around the world. This project was the largest pro bono matter White & Case had ever undertaken. The firm ran it like a commercial cross-border transaction: setting up centralised online document management resources, holding regular conference calls and appointing partners as team leaders in each jurisdiction. It involved almost 200 associates and 30 partners across 27 of 39 offices. Staff have dedicated more than 6,300 hours of pro bono work to this project. The database is currently open to the public and available for use by universities, NGOs or law-enforcement agencies.