The awards recognise and celebrate the vital work undertaken by legal aid lawyers and UCL iLAC is the first university law clinic to receive this award.
UCL iLAC is run by the UCL Centre for Access to Justice (CAJ) at UCL Laws. Based in Stratford, the clinic offers members of the local East London community legally aided and free legal advice on all aspects of social welfare law. It is the only university law clinic with a legal aid contract.
UCL Laws students volunteer at the clinic, assisting staff on all aspects of cases, including advocacy, while learning about legal aid and access to justice. Working on real life cases provides an inspirational learning experience for students, understanding the significant problems faced by those struggling to access justice and providing the opportunity for students to make a real difference to the local community.
A client who received help from the Clinic said: "I owe a lot to the clinic. I cannot put into words or repay them for how much they have helped me. I get emotional even thinking about it. I have been in this country for the last 35 years and have not come across people as good as the staff at iLAC... I owe everything to them."
Speaking about her experience working with the Clinic, Harriet Sampson, former UCL student and current paralegal, said: "The clinic has given me an opportunity to explore and learn about different areas of law, gain valuable friendships, and make a change to people’s lives. It has been incredibly inspiring for me and given me a strong sense of purpose...without the clinic, I would not be as sure of my aspirations to become a legal aid lawyer."
Rachel Knowles, Head of Legal Practice at UCL iLAC said: "I am incredibly proud of our team for this achievement and grateful to everyone at UCL who has supported us. At a time where legal aid and access to justice are facing new hurdles every day, we are able to not only continue helping the community, but also inspire the next generation of social welfare lawyers."
Professor Dame Hazel Genn, Founder of UCL Centre for Access to Justice said: "This award is wonderful recognition of the exceptional work undertaken by the iLAC team in Stratford under Rachel Knowles’ leadership. To be the first University Law Clinic to receive a LALY award is a tribute to her vision in securing a legal aid contract for the service, the outstanding work of staff and students, and the support of UCL Laws."
Hosted by the Legal Aid Practitioners Group, the awards ceremony took place on Tuesday 12 July in London with 600 guests in attendance and Baroness Helena Kennedy presenting the awards.
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