Oxford Pro Bono Publico (OPBP) was awarded the ‘Best Contribution by a Team of Students’ award in the 2013 LawWorks & Attorney General Student Pro Bono Awards, hosted at the House of Commons on Monday.
Now in its 13th year, OPBP relies upon the dedication and commitment of Oxford law graduate students and Faculty members to provide research and litigation support to NGO’s, legal centres, barristers and solicitors acting on a pro bono basis. The judging panel was extremely impressed with the international reach of OPBP’s work.
OPBP partners with organizations around the world to deliver high quality pro bono assistance. In the past sixteen months, OPBP completed 12 pro bono projects, involving 86 student volunteers (almost one third of graduate students from the Faculty of Law), providing over 960 hours of free legal research.
Sarah Sephton, Director of the Legal Resource Centre in Grahamstown, South Africa, supported OPBP’s nomination. She expressed her thanks for OPBP’s continuing work for LRC, noting that:
‘it has been a very successful collaboration between the LRC and OPBP. By nature and by choice LRC cases are factually and legally complex. We often face opponents who are better resourced. In this climate, having access to the best legal minds in the world through OPBP gives us an invaluable edge when we prepare for our difficult cases.’
In 2011, OPBP launched an Internship Programme to provide funding to graduate students to assist them in undertaking unpaid or poorly paid public interest internships around the world. OPBP has awarded 13 grants to date, supporting internships at organizations such as the Centre for Child Law in Pretoria, South Africa; the Centre for Policy Alternatives in Sri Lanka; the AIRE Centre in London; and Human Rights Watch in Washington DC. The impact of these opportunities on the students and the organisations they support was celebrated at the award ceremony last night.
The annual LawWorks & Attorney General Student Pro Bono Awards recognise and celebrate pro bono contributions made by students and law faculties in the United Kingdom. With devastating cuts to Legal Aid funding about to take effect, there has never been a more important time to reflect upon the importance of pro bono legal work. In his opening remarks, Paul Newdick CBE, Chairman of LawWorks, gave a sage reminder of the need to continue pro bono efforts in the time of austerity. He was clear to point out that pro bono work, while essential, can only supplement government funded legal aid and should not be seen as a replacement. Attorney-General Dominic Grieve QC MP emphasised the defining impact that pro bono work can have upon a law student’s career and emphasised that pro bono work, at all levels, should be encouraged and supported.
This is the second time that OPBP has received this award, having been a recipient in 2007.