The Justice First Fellowship tracks the paths taken by past cohorts of Fellows to see what happens next as Fellows build their careers, and to help understand how best to support these journeys. An examination of the first six cohorts has revealed that almost half of Fellows have remained working with the same host organisation they qualified with, and the vast majority of those who have moved on continue to work in social justice. In fact, 77% of Fellows are working in social justice law in specialist not-for-profit agencies, private firms or chambers, and 13% of Fellows are working in government or a courts setting, meaning an impressive 90% are working as lawyers using law for public benefit.
The Legal Education Foundation focuses on the essential role of legal education in helping people and organisations to understand and use the law as a tool for change. Too often people across the UK are unable to get support and expertise that may be needed for them to access justice. The Foundation recognised that in order to ensure the law is there for everyone who needs it, communities must have talented and committed social welfare lawyers, and it was this that led to the formation of the Justice First Fellowship in 2014.
The Justice First Fellowship was established to support the next generation of social welfare lawyers to deliver justice for communities. The first nine Fellows started their training contracts in early 2015. To date the fellowship has supported six cohorts to qualify, with the latest group having just started their training contracts in January this year. Throughout their time on the Fellowship, Fellows gain experience under qualified social justice solicitors, become part of a wider network of lawyers working for public benefit and develop a range of non-legal skills such as project management, communications and fundraising which they will need to continue their careers in a constantly changing advice sector. The review of how the careers of Fellows are developing came as the Fellowship opens up applications for the next group of potential host organisations who would take on the ninth cohort of Fellows in 2023.
We are now looking for 15-20 of these organisations to host Justice First Fellows from 2023-25. Fellows are hosted by some of the best social welfare legal organisations in the UK. Host organisations are awarded grants which support them to employ and train a Fellow over two years. JFF continues to adapt to changes in the sector, and this year for the first time, hosts may offer either a training contract or an SQE track to qualification. Alongside the compulsory training, Fellows are supported by their host organisation to devise and run their own project aimed at increasing access to justice.
One such project was a campaign to wipe past convictions for homosexual activity from records, which was developed by JFF Katy Watts while at the Public Law Project. At the beginning of January 2022, the government announced that it will extend its pardons policy to cover convictions for same-sex sexual activity that has affected gay and bisexual people for decades. You can read more about the project and its success here.
For the latest cohort, we are delighted to continue to work with BBC Children in Need so we will be looking for three out of the 15-20 Fellows to specialise in child law.
The scheme has been supported by a range of partners including BPP, Unbound Philanthropy, Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, BBC Children in Need, City Bridge Trust, AB Charitable Trust, Royal Bank of Scotland, and commercial law firms.
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