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Top 40 law firm Trowers & Hamlins are part of a group of major city law firms funding the training of more than 20 aspiring solicitors this year through a landmark initiative to create the next generation of social welfare lawyers. Urged by government to step up, 18 have heeded the call so far, including four of the magic circle.

Some 18 leading law firms have now contributed towards the Social Welfare Solicitors Qualification Fund, which was established at the end of last year. The unique collaboration is led by the City of London Law Society in partnership with training provider BARBRI and Young Legal Aid Lawyers.

The firms so far committed to the scheme are Trowers & Hamlins, Allen & Overy, Ashurst, Addleshaw Goddard, Clifford Chance, Clyde & Co, Eversheds Sutherland, Freshfields, Latham & Watkins, Linklaters, Macfarlanes, Norton Rose Fulbright, Shoosmiths, Simmons & Simmons, Stephenson Harwood, Travers Smith, Weil Gotshal & Manges, and White & Case. Also on board is the City of London Solicitors’ Company Charitable Fund.

The BARBRI preparation course and assessment for the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE) costs £8,800. Some £207,000 in training funds has been committed by the firms so far.

The fund will begin training 22 candidates in its first year, ‘providing better access to justice for users of social welfare services, as well as social mobility opportunities to enter the legal profession’.

Candidates in the first cohort are all social welfare legal workers and will continue to commit a significant part of their working lives to social welfare law, studying part-time for the SQE while continuing to work in their current roles.

The fund covers the full cost of the SQE prep course from BARBRI plus the subsequent assessment fees for each candidate. Solicitors who qualify with support from the SWSQF will each deliver over 1,200 social welfare law hours annually.

Senior Partner at Trowers & Hamlins, Sara Bailey, commented:

"We are proud to be a part of the Social Welfare Solicitors Qualification Fund initiative as it gives social welfare workers the opportunity to transition into highly effective solicitors who can continue to support and provide advice for those most in need of legal services."

Dame Alison Saunders, partner at Linklaters and former director of public prosecutions, said: 

‘The CLLS Social Welfare Solicitor Qualification Fund is a great initiative and really important. I have seen first-hand the impact of not having enough criminal legal aid lawyers who are vital to ensuring that all members of society have access to justice which is a fundamental part of the rule of law. I welcome City law firms financially supporting the initiative.’

Dan Carden, MP for Liverpool Wavertree, added: 

‘Effective and available advice is more crucial than ever following the introduction of LASPO 2012, and these scholarships will help to ensure that vulnerable clients can exercise their rights.

‘Removing barriers to entry to the profession will help to alleviate difficulties in accessing advice, particularly following the pressures of the Covid-19 pandemic.

‘I am proud to give my support to a scheme that will help qualifying solicitors provide constituents, like mine, with the advice they need so desperately.’