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National awards shortlisting recognises dedication and impact of volunteers from University of Chester

award and confetti

University of Chester Law students have been shortlisted for prestigious national awards at the House of Commons in recognition of sharing their time, skills and dedication to help others.

Students have been announced as finalists in three out of five categories in the 2023 LawWorks and Attorney General’s Student Pro Bono Awards for their volunteering work supporting refugees, pregnant women and new mothers.

The Awards celebrate the best pro bono activities – legal advice or representation provided free of charge in the public interest – undertaken by law students and law schools from across the UK.

The winners will be announced at a ceremony at the House of Commons on Thursday (April 27) with the Attorney General, the Rt Hon Victoria Prentis KC MP.

Chester students have been shortlisted in the categories of:

  • Best New Pro Bono Activity, for their partnership with Pregnant Then Screwed (PTS), a charity that seeks to tackle the root causes of maternity discrimination and promote the rights of women.
  • Best Contribution by a Team of Students, for the Immigration Project, working with Eastgate Chambers, a firm committed to improving the lives of refugees.
  • Best Contribution by an Individual Student for Annabel Priest, who is instrumental to the success of the Immigration Project as its student Project Manager.

The University of Chester Law School operates several student-run community outreach projects as part of the Chester Community Law Project (CCLP), each led by a student Project Manager and operated by student volunteers from the undergraduate law degree. The CCLP provides free guidance on a variety of legal topics and runs initiatives tailored to meet the needs of diverse communities within Chester and beyond.

The Best New Pro Bono Activity shortlisting acknowledges the impact of one of these – the Reach Out to Families Project – involving a team of eight students (some of whom are parents themselves) researching and devising a series of ‘Your Rights’ information sheets for the PTS website. Since being uploaded in February to they have been downloaded thousands of times and cover issues such as maternity leave and pay, adoption leave and pay, unfair dismissal, flexible working, redundancy, and discrimination.

Breaking complex legal principles down into plain English, the freely accessible and easily-digestible information sheets assist women who may not have anywhere else to turn, or who are reticent or unable to seek formal assistance. They are also signposted by volunteer HR advisers who operate the national PTS advice line, in turn freeing them up to answer more queries and help more women. 

The Best Contribution by a Team of Students shortlisting highlights the outstanding contribution to pro bono activities of five students involved in the Immigration Project this year, by assisting refugees to work, study and settle in the UK.

The student volunteers assist a Legal Aid caseworker in their life-changing work with refugee clients, over 80% of whom have been forced from their homes by the war in Syria, in supporting the drafting of applications, as well as providing advice and guidance.

Annabel Priest, shortlisted for Best Contribution by an Individual Student, has been recognised for her commitment to leading the project since summer 2022. Her clear guidance to, and mentoring of, the student volunteer team has enabled volunteers to provide effective support to the caseworker, ensuring clients are provided with the assistance they need – and a decision on their future more quickly.

Annabel said:

“I feel immensely proud to be representing the University of Chester in our pro bono initiatives. It is fantastic that all of the hard work that we all put in to giving back to our community, alongside our own personal commitments, is being acknowledged.

“Personally, I wouldn’t have been able to achieve any of it without the constant support of Andrea Todd and Megan Cowan, from Chester Law School, who have both been pivotal in pushing me to continually challenge my abilities. Further, Simon Clark from Eastgate Chambers has been instrumental in my learning and development, without whom I would not have had the understanding of the role that I require, in order to guide the students so effectively.”

Student Bradley Bennett, who also volunteers as part of the Immigration Project, added:

“It is an incredibly insightful and rewarding experience to be a part of. For the project to be nominated for the award is phenomenal, and very well-deserved given all the time and hard work that has gone into it.”

Kristie Royle, Student Project Manager for the Pregnant Then Screwed partnership, shared how:

“Working on the project and knowing how many parents we are helping has been extremely rewarding. There were many times in my career – before I studied Law – that I found juggling work and caring for my children extremely difficult, because I didn’t really understand my rights. The advice and support that PTS provides parents with, empowers parents so that they do know and understand their rights and can secure the best possible outcome for themselves and their children.

“It is an absolute pleasure to work with such a brilliant organisation and such an amazing and motivated team of student volunteers. To have our work recognised by being nominated for such a brilliant award just makes all our efforts seem even more worthwhile.”

Andrea Todd, Associate Professor of Active Citizenship and Director of Pro Bono and Community Engagement at Chester Law School, said:

“We are extremely proud of our brilliant student volunteers who are working so hard alongside their studies to make a difference to the lives of others.

“The passion, compassion and commitment shown, and the hours dedicated throughout the year, by all of our student volunteers demonstrates exactly the ethos that we want to see in the social justice lawyers of tomorrow.”

Alasdair Douglas, Chair of LawWorks commented:

“Thank you to everyone nominated and shortlisted for their dedication to helping those in need of legal support and increasing access to justice. We are grateful for your efforts.”

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