Representatives from SHU Law and Sheffield Hallam University were privileged to be invited to speak at the 8th National Forum on Access to Justice for those without means, held in London on Friday 6th December 2019.
Professor Elizabeth Smart (Head of Law at Sheffield Hallam University), Sally Mallinson-Ayres (Senior Solicitor at SHU Law) and Chris Riley (Head of Clinical Provision at Sheffield Hallam University), joined an illustrious group of delegates and speakers at Central Hall, Westminster, for this annual forum to address topical issues concerning access to justice for the most vulnerable in society.
Around 250 people attended, including members of the Judiciary, Ministry of Justice, Law Society, Bar Standards Board, and representatives from legal education providers, legal advice charities, pro-bono organisations and law firms.
The programme of briefing topics and insights, delivered by a variety of legal sector experts, covered supporting litigants in person (including digital solutions); tackling public legal education; exceptional case funding; and the IBA and World Bank report on the cost benefit analysis of Legal Aid. Sitting right at the heart of the discussions was the ongoing needs of Litigants in Person and the dilemmas that they face in navigating the complex language and procedures of the court system. The forum was keen to re-inforce the view that legal aid has not come to an end and those working in this sector should not simply accept the status quo; but should be trying to influence policy to reverse the damage done.
The day began with an opening address by Sir Terence Etherton MR, Chairman of the Civil Justice Council, Master of the Rolls and head of Civil Justice. Litigants in Person and the dilemmas that they face in navigating the complex language and procedures of the court system. The forum was keen to re-inforce the view that legal aid has not come to an end and a section in the afternoon programme was dedicated to the SHU and SHU Law contingent chaired by His Honour Judge Graham Robinson, the Designated Civil Judge for Sheffield and South Yorkshire and the Litigant in Person Liaison Judge.
Professor Elizabeth Smart spoke on the formation of SHU Law and explained how the law firm’s foundations are built on the University’s core value of driving forward access to justice and human rights. Senior Solicitor at SHU Law, Sally Mallinson-Ayres, addressed delegates on the process and intricacies of establishing a not-for-profit teaching law firm funded by a University. Chris Riley, Head of Clinical Provision at Sheffield Hallam University touched on some of the legal work undertake by SHU Law and students including serious and topical issues such as helping victims of gender violence and knife crime: topics that get young lawyers thinking about what their contribution to access to justice might be as they progress into their careers.