The Justice First Fellowship at the Legal Education Foundation is an innovative, highly successful initiative that supports training and placements for new social justice welfare lawyers. The Fellowship enables emerging lawyers to choose social justice law as a viable, rewarding, and hugely impactful career path. Justice First Fellows spend two years working in leading UK organizations, which act as hosts and enable them to learn alongside the best in the profession.
Fellows deliver direct legal support to hundreds of vulnerable people, including asylum seekers, refugees, and migrants. These projects provide valuable support to vulnerable people, as well as hands-on experience to emerging lawyers. The scheme has now placed over 80 fellows in a growing number of host organizations, and a large number of fellows stay on to work with their organization after their two years of training.
The Fellowship supports diversity and lived experience in the profession: the majority of Justice First Fellows are women, many with lived experiences of the issues they are working on. Recent fellows include someone who is Roma, and a Bosnian refugee.
The Fellowship was launched in 2014 in response to massive cuts in public aid in the UK. The opportunity and the aim of the program is to fill the gap of high-quality new lawyers who want to make a difference to those seeking access to justice but without the means to pay for it. Inspired by the Skadden Fellowships and Equal Justice Works Fellowships in the US.
Unbound has supported the fellowship scheme since its inception. It advances our System strategy area, ensuring legal protections in the immigration system.
Without the Justice First Fellowship, and support from other organisations which champion social mobility and diversity in the legal sector, I very much doubt I would be where I am now with my legal career.
Barbara Likulunga, Avon and Bristol Law Center, 2015-2017
Supporting a pipeline for future leaders of social justice law
Fellows who have gone through the program
Photo 1: Justice First Fellow Farida Elfallah at the Fellows’ graduation ceremony held at The Law Society in London. Farida is now an associate solicitor at JustRight Scotland working in its Scottish Refugee & Migrant Centre, where her work focuses on migrant destitution and equalities.
Photo 2: Just First Fellow Thembi Fakoya-Sales explaining why she wanted to be a social justice lawyer. She’s now a housing lawyer at her host organisation – Mary Ward Legal Centre – and has been instrumental in setting up a public law litigation unit there. Photographer credit Richard Gray.