Junior lawyers at DLA Piper’s Liverpool office explain how their work on the Liverpool Law Clinic’s Statelessness Project makes a difference.
What is the name of the scheme in which you participate and what does it entail?
DLA Piper has committed to pro bono work by developing projects alongside a number of legal clinics from local non-profit and charity organisations, law centres and or/universities across the UK, and by assisting with the existing projects of such bodies. These projects focus on the most disadvantaged and marginalised individuals in our local communities and our lawyers are trained and supervised to undertake pro bono work for those in need in discrete areas of law that are no longer sufficiently covered by legal aid. One example is DLA Liverpool’s assistance on the Liverpool Law Clinic’s Statelessness project, created so that the Clinic’s expertise in this area can reach as many vulnerable people as possible. The project offers free legal representation to help stateless individuals to make an application for leave to remain under the new statelessness determination procedure. It aims to thereby establish a caseload which will generate strategic litigation leading to better decision-making and establish helpful legal principles. DLA lawyers assist by donating our time and skills to help with the casework.
What benefits do you think the scheme provides to those who receive the services?
A stateless person is one who is not considered to be a national of any country. Statelessness occurs in a variety of ways, including through birth status, the dissolution of countries, the complex operation of citizenship laws or discrimination. Stateless people, who may already have faced significant hardship in the circumstances leading to them becoming stateless, then face serious difficulties in day-to-day life as a result of their status. They are often unable to do many of the things which other people take for granted, such as being able to hold identity documents, vote, own property, travel, open bank accounts, enrol in education or participate in formal employment. The Statelessness project offers such individuals legal support in relation to their applications to be formally recognised as stateless and to get leave to remain. Leave to remain as stateless gives an individual the right to reside legally, work and claim benefits should they need them, although stateless individuals are still excluded from some things which are available to others, such as student finance for higher education and access to social housing.
What benefits do you get from participating in the scheme?
Working with the Statelessness project offers us an insight into a serious global issue and allows us to gain an understanding of citizenship and nationality laws in multiple jurisdictions. We are able to expand our knowledge of international legal systems which is hugely beneficial when working for a global law firm and working hands-on with foreign legislation helps us to appreciate how it works in practice. This project also allows us to widen the range of legal skills which we use on a daily basis and to tailor them to use in a different context, and to experience working within a different client base.
What do you enjoy about the scheme and what do you find challenging about the scheme?
The Statelessness project offers an opportunity for us to learn about an area of international law which we would not normally have exposure to and it is a rewarding way to widen our legal education. There is a huge element of team-work in this project, and working together to provide information which may be used directly in an individual’s statelessness application or which will otherwise contribute to the knowledge-base at the Statelessness project in order for it to assist more people in future is very satisfying. Some very specific challenges exist in this area of law, and in particular finding authoritative sources for our research can be difficult. In several jurisdictions where statelessness is a wide-scale problem, governments are wary to offer too much information publicly and so occasionally it is difficult to come to a definitive conclusion.
What is the importance for you in doing pro bono work and why would you encourage others to get involved?
As lawyers, we are in a privileged position to have sought-after skills which we should use to benefit the community and other people who would otherwise not be able to access prohibitively expensive legal services. It is important to be aware of issues which affect those less fortunate and we have a moral and social obligation to assist where we can. From a personal perspective, pro bono work allows for variety in your legal career, and exposure to diverse areas of law which you may not normally come across in your daily work. There is an opportunity to improve your existing legal skills and to interact with people from different sectors of society. Additionally, there is a sense of satisfaction which comes from knowing you are contributing something useful to those who are really in need of assistance.
Junior lawyer members of the DLA project team are:
- Natasha Jones
- Hayley Gore
- Jack Roberts
- Elan Iorwerth
- Anna Hayes
- Laura Moorcroft
- Ekaterina Mooney
- Anna Barclay