Supporting Social Justice Solicitors

The lack of junior solicitors coming into the profession who specialise in social welfare law means that free legal advice organisations across the country struggle to deliver access to justice for the most marginalised groups in our society. Advice organisations simply cannot afford to train and hire social welfare solicitors, many of whom come from severe economic disadvantage themselves.

The existing issues around workforce recruitment, retention, and staff wellbeing are being exacerbated by both an increase in demand and a further squeeze on resources. In some cases, advice organisations have reported a doubling in the demand for advice, while they struggle to keep their services running.

Advice agencies are reporting significant issues recruiting and retaining staff. Some can only manage this funding gap by cutting services and making redundancies and the short-term nature of funding means charities are not able to offer long or even medium-term job security.

Securing the future of social welfare advice

The Supporting Social Justice Solicitors (SSJS) Programme, is an initiative dedicated to bolstering social justice by empowering newly qualified solicitors to begin their career in free legal advice services. Our programme, in collaboration with the Social Welfare Solicitors Qualification Fund (SWSQF), is designed to secure a talent pipeline of solicitors proven to contribute significantly to social welfare work.

The SSJS Programme will fund the salaries of SWSQF recipients through their 2-years’ qualifying work experience, enabling imminently and recently qualified solicitors to work on the frontline of free legal advice services.

We are aiming to support around 20 aspiring social welfare solicitors to qualify at organisations specialised in helping the most marginalised in society. We anticipate each qualifying lawyer will deliver approximately 1,230 hours of social welfare law hours annually.

Why donate to the programme?

The SSJS Programme is a dedicated campaign to support the salaries of imminently and recently qualified solicitors working in free legal advice services. By collaborating with the Social Welfare Solicitors Qualification Fund (SWSQF), we ensure a steady pipeline of skilled solicitors committed to social welfare work. This funding not only aids workforce development but also alleviates the financial burden on frontline organisations, allowing them to focus on delivering vital services.

Supporting the SSJS Programme directly contributes to increased access to justice for the most marginalised individuals and communities. With a rising demand for legal services—exacerbated by the cost of living crisis—your contribution helps recruit and retain solicitors on the frontline. Organisations are grappling with a surge in demand, and without additional support, over 40,000 people will potentially go without the advice and assistance they need. Your support is crucial to bridging the gap between current provision and the growing need for advice.

Our program is committed to fostering a diverse and inclusive legal profession by providing opportunities for individuals who may face barriers to entering the field. The SSJS Programme supports social mobility, offering a route to qualification in social welfare law for those who may not have access otherwise. SWSQF cohort members often have lived experience of marginalisation and a direct connection with their communities, enabling them to identify and address specific barriers to justice.

Practicing social welfare law is not only about making a difference but also creating a viable career option for junior lawyers passionate about helping those in need. The SSJS Programme addresses the challenge of recruitment and retention faced by frontline advice charities, offering consistent and sustainable funding. By developing a qualification route through social welfare law, cohort members gain access to diverse career development opportunities, regardless of their backgrounds.

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Frequently Asked Questions

The Social Welfare Solicitors Qualification Fund (SWSQF) is an initiative by the City of London Law Society, BARBRI and Young Legal Aid Lawyers to provide financial assistance to aspiring solicitors working in social welfare law for organisations serving disadvantaged communities. The SWSQF funds the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE) preparation courses and assessments.

The SSJS Programme will then fund the salaries of some SWSQF recipients throughout their 2 years’ qualifying work experience at their advice organisations. This greatly increases the impact of SWSQF, by helping aspiring solicitors with the salary challenges involved in staying for at least two years at their advice organisation, delivering high quality legal advice to those who need it most.

Having contributed £100,000 to the Programme ourselves, we are aiming to achieve a total of £500,000 through donations, partnerships and sponsorships.

We welcome support for the SSJS Programme from anyone and everyone who hopes for a society where everyone has access to justice. We have had particular interest and support from law firms who are looking to achieve their corporate social responsibility aims, and other legal community partners who recognise the importance of training and maintaining social justice solicitors.

We welcome both individual and corporate donors, and are happy to discuss any questions or concerns you may have about partnering with us.

By donating to the SSJS Programme, you will be supporting an aspiring lawyer to qualify as a solicitor within the social welfare legal sector.

We are happy to discuss allocating funds raised to support specific initiatives if that is something you wish to explore. For example, a Manchester firm making a donation may wish to specify that their donation goes towards funding the salary of a solicitor providing social welfare advice in the North West of England. Similarly, a donor may have a personal attachment to a specific type of legal advice (such as immigration, or domestic abuse), in which case we will look to distribute their donated funds to organisations who specialise in this type of advice. We aim to make the donation process as accessible and flexible as possible.

Organisations employing staff who receive SWSQF funding will apply to us for an additional grant to support that staff member’s salary. There will be a light touch application process which will consider financial need and strategic fit. We will design guidelines for this fund once we have a clearer idea of the amount we have available for distribution.

No. It is only existing recipients of the Social Welfare Solicitors Qualification Fund (SWSQF) who can benefit from the SSJS Programme (and can only receive the money through the advice organisation with whom they are completing their qualifying work experience).

The Justice First Fellowship

The Justice First Fellowship (JFF) is a scheme open to anyone in the UK looking to  qualify as a social justice lawyer. JFF offers a number of training opportunities at selected host organisations which focus on various areas of social justice law. These Fellowships are two years in length and fully funded, covering trainees’ salaries and any mandatory training and exams needed to complete qualification as a lawyer.

The SSJS Programme encourages staff retention at advice organisations by funding the salaries of trainee solicitors for their two-year qualifying legal work experience. It works alongside the SWSQF (which funds only the fees involved in the SQE) and only funds trainees who already work at advice organisations (and have continued to do so alongside their SWSQF-funded SQE studies).

The Apprenticeship Levy

If your pay bill is more than £3 million, you’ll contribute 0.5% of the bill to an apprenticeship levy towards the funding of apprenticeships. This funding can be spent on the training, education, and assessment of apprenticeships but it cannot be used for wages or incidental costs, such as travel.

If your law firm pays the Apprenticeship Levy, you can transfer 25% of your annual apprenticeship funding to another organisation, including frontline free legal advice charities. This gives employers more flexibility and helps larger employers to support apprenticeships in smaller organisations.

Qualification through the solicitor apprentice route requires candidates to spend 20% of their salaried working time studying (typically one day a week) which many social welfare legal service providers are unable to finance making SWSQF so critical for social welfare career progression.

The SSJS Programme will be used to fund the salaries of SWSQF cohort members who have qualified through an alternative route to an apprenticeship.