This year’s Awards will see The Lawyer continue our partnership with the FRU.

The Lawyer is perfectly positioned within the industry to spread the word about the essential services provided by the FRU, and by donating our resources and expertise for the benefit of the FRU’s external comms we will give a voice to the causes they champion.

Read on for more information on the FRU, including details of how to get involved and contribute.

Free Representation Unit

The Free Representation Unit (FRU) is a unique institution that is now over 50 years old. We are a charity that alleviates poverty by providing free legal representation for people who can’t afford it. We train aspiring lawyers, who act for free. FRU’s clients benefit by having someone who understands the relevant law and can navigate complex legal hearings. Our volunteers benefit because there are few opportunities before qualification to have genuine ownership of a legal case including representing the client at the hearing. We cover employment, social security and criminal injuries compensation.

We employ a small legal team to train and support our volunteers. We partner with law firms, chambers and law schools to deliver our service. We are always looking for new supporters who can offer practical and/or financial help. Our success rate is high, but whatever the outcome we deliver access to justice for our clients, and we would love to do more.

How FRU works

All our clients are vulnerable, either through their situation, or by reason of sickness or disability for example. They cannot afford to pay for representation.

We deal with two areas of law; employment and social security. Both are legally complex but do not require rights of audience and Legal Aid has never been available for representation before these tribunals. This makes them ideal jurisdictions for training junior lawyers but with huge unmet need in the provision of legal services. We employ 5 legal officers to train and support our volunteers, 2 of who are paid interns who are building their own legal career.

Each year we help hundreds of clients. Many social security clients are sick or disabled. Their benefits are based on being awarded points. They are often referred having been awarded zero points, even if they have previously received the same benefit. Our volunteers obtain new evidence and rigorously analyse the criteria. Our written legal submissions are often sufficient to persuade the tribunal to allow the appeal. We are successful in over 80% of these cases and the client could have to wait for 9 months to challenge their decision, living on a reduced income.

Our employment cases range from straightforward unpaid wage claims to complex unfair dismissal, employment status, discrimination or harassment claims. Many of our employment clients are from minority communities in insecure low skilled jobs. We are the only pro bono agency to represent clients in multi-day discrimination hearings.

We are a lean organisation with 6 out of 9 staff being client facing. Each year we represent around 500 clients, train between 800 – 1000 students and we submit experience-based evidence to public policy consultations on relevant legal and justice issues.

We are a small charity with very big ambitions.

FRU supporters

We are supported by many law firms and chambers. We receive grants from the Bar Council and Inns of Court and donations through fundraising. We have a clinical legal education partnership with City Law School, University of London. Each year a fourth seat trainee solicitor is placed with us from Linklaters LLP. We welcome more such arrangements and other partnership working where we can help law firms to meet their pro bono commitments.

Much of our income is not secure and we have to raise £500,000 each year with no income from public funds. Our volunteers pay a fee to be trained and they pay their own travel expenses to the office and to the tribunal hearings. We need to be able to pay our legal officers to supervise the volunteer advocates and during the next 12 months we will need to find new office accommodation in central London.

More information

A message from our Charity Partner

FRU is delighted to have been chosen as the official charity partner for The Lawyer Awards.

We combine providing access to justice for vulnerable people with training the next generation of lawyers. This recognition for our work is fantastic and every penny raised at the awards will support our volunteer lawyers to help more people with their urgent legal needs..

David Abbott – CEO