Archive | November 2012

Legal Researcher Required – Pro Bono

Due to my recent award of Pro Bono lawyer of the year 2012, I have been inundated with requests for pro bono assistance.  While many of these are very worthy cases, and very interesting challenges, I am unable to undertake them all as my current pro bono practice takes up more time than my paying practice as it is.

In view of this, I am looking for a legal researcher to assist me, in the hope that for many of these cases, even if  I cannot really assist in the long term, I can provide an advice which will give some idea of at least the area of law that the complaint fits into and what to do next.

The work will be varied, and hopefully interesting, but as it is all pro bono on my part, I cannot afford to pay for any of this research.  I will require at least 10 hours per month commitment, for a period of 3 months. Much of the time I will be overseas so it will require someone who can work on their own initiative and who has the drive and commitment to work on the research without being chased and reminded, and who can stick to deadlines.

I am searching for someone who has a good understanding of law, but that does not mean someone who has necessarily completed their BPTC, however those currently studying for their BPTC or GDL will probably find that my 10 hours a month requirement is too much along with their studies.  The successful candidate must have the ability not only to research, but to apply that to actual cases and write an advice which is clear and concise, which a lay person can understand.  This is not a task of writing law essays.  In view of my practice, the likely areas of law to be researched are criminal, complaints against the police, inquests, discrimination, employment, benefits refusal, prison law, criminal injuries compensation to name a few…

What I hope to provide to the researcher in return is an idea of life at the Bar, a varied experience of case work, the opportunity to shadow me at court, the possibility of working on some very novel cases, both from the UK and the USA.  I am happy to provide a reference at the end of the three month stint and also will offer continued guidance on applying for pupillage/training contract etc.

Make no mistake, this is going to be a tough role as I am a hard taskmaster as any of my previous research assistants will tell you.  However, all who have survived…have been successful in either obtaining pupillage, scholarships for overseas work,  training contracts or places on further education courses.  There is no requirement to be based in London as most of this work can be done remotely, via email.  However, I am looking for someone who is serious about putting the work in, and so if you are considering applying, you must firstly consider your course/work requirements over the next three months and if you will not be able to fit in at least 10 hours a month then now is not the time for you to be applying to be my researcher.  There will be other opportunities in the future.  The time must be right for you.

If all of the above has not put you off and you would like to apply, please send your cv and a covering letter explaining why you want to be my researcher to gurdena@btinternet.com  The closing date is 4th December 2012.  I am looking to interview on the 5th/6th December 2012.  Interviews can either be in person in my Chambers (1 Gray’s Inn Square) or by telephone.

Final Disclaimer – this is a research position linked solely to me and is not linked to 1 Gray’s Inn Square.  Please do not call chambers and ask about the position.

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‘As Many Football Defending Tactics Off the Pitch As On It’

Understanding the Tactics of Football Policing and How to Defend Football Supporters in Criminal and Civil law

Football disorder offences and football banning orders are becoming more common as increased police resources are being funneled into football policing.

Football policing is a distinct area for most police forces and defending football supporters is often very different to defending other types of criminal defendant.

Criminal lawyers will come across football supporter cases in both the Magistrates and Crown Courts, and these cases can involve both criminal law and civil law. Knowing the provisions of the Football Supporters Act in relation to Football Banning Orders is not the whole story when representing football supporters, there are often prejudices of jurors and magistrates that must be overcome.

Fans are increasingly taking civil actions against their clubs due to the retention and dissemination of their personal data, club refusal to allow entrance to disabled persons with crutches and walking sticks, and club exclusion orders and injunctions being taken out by the clubs against fans. Many of these fans are youths and in extra need of protection.

Come along to this free 2 hour training session to learn more about working on football related cases, including:-

  • The specifics of football policing;
  • Criminal and Civil Issues specific to football fans;
  • Section 27 Orders;
  • Football Banning Orders;
  • What is meant by ‘football related’;
  • Update on football disorder cases;
  • Overcoming prejudices towards football fans in the courts;
  • Using the Hillsborough report to assist your case.

Speakers:

AlisonGurden, Barrister, 1 Gray’s Inn Square Chambers, AmandaJacks of the Football Supporters Federation, and Melanie Cooke, Solicitor specialising in defending football fans.

Location: Holborn

Date: 29th November 5-7pm

Attendance is free and worth 2 CPD Points (applied for) for barristers and solicitors.

RSVP gurdena@btinternet.com or @gurdena

As Pro Bono Lawyer of 2012 – its not all about me, its about the clients..

In view of the fact I was voted Pro Bono Lawyer of 2012 at the Bar Conference, I feel I should probably wade into the pro bono discussion. As Steve Cornforth said in his recent blog on the subject ( http://thestevecornforthblog.blogspot.com/2012/10/pro-what.html) pro bono is actually the legal World’s way of saying ‘without charge’.

Firstly, I have to say that I don’t court publicity and usually try to stay well below the radar.  However, I feel that in view of the fact I have an army of volunteers who assist with my pro bono work, I must raise my profile on this issue so as to raise their profile. I don’t intend to name all the volunteers who have helped me out over the years, and intact if I did, I would probably run out of pages, but those who have helped me know who they are and hopefully they know that I am eternally grateful for the assistance.

I have been described as a ‘one person pro bono unit’, and it is true that I do spend a great deal of time each work on my pro bono work, and that it varies from assisting those facing the death penalty in Florida, to waitresses and apprentices in Croydon who are not being paid the minimum wage, with migrants, juveniles in custody, human trafficking victims, and football fans in the middle.  Some of my pro bono case load is more ‘sexy’ than others, so I find I only have to mention death penalty and I am inundated with offers of help, whereas my  apprentice and waitresses who are not receiving the minimum wage do not seem to be such an interesting prospect for most volunteers.  However, it can be argued that this is the essence of pro bono work as it allows people to follow their passion, rather than the work they are being told they must do.  For many students and young lawyers, offering to work pro bono on a case means they get to be involved with a case which would otherwise not be offered to them.  It is great for experience, and personal development, and the clients benefit from another brain working on the case.  For those, like myself , who are a little longer in the tooth, it means we can pass on our experience to others, but there usually remains a challenge in most cases, something for us to get those longer teeth into.

So why do I do what I do? That’s a hard question to answer.  Clearly I don’t do it for the notoriety, and the fact I am often still sitting at my laptop at 3am means my pro bono caseload does not give me an easy life.  Probably the best answer is:  I do it, because I can.  Without question, all of my clients are grateful for the assistance, and for my part, it is the clients who inspire me to carry on.  These same clients tell me I am the first person to have visited them in prison for 10 years, or that they had intended to pull out of their employment tribunal case as they could not deal with the prospect of facing their harassing employer, or that they just need someone to tell them whether they do indeed have a legal complaint.

I am often asked how I manage to fit in all this work, and truth be told it is often more luck than judgment. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I am totally dysfunctional, friends are now used to my turning up at their front door in the early hours of the morning and asking to sleep on their sofa, and borrow clean clothes for the next day.  I don’t own a car and am often found sleeping on train stations having missed my last train connection of the evening. The night shift corrections officers in the Miami Jails know me on first name terms due to the fact I am regularly still sitting in jail interview rooms with my clients at midnight.  Judges now seem to be used to me turning up for emergency hearings in the Crown Court wearing a wig and gown three sizes too big for me as it was the only one I was able to borrow in the robing room at short notice!

In essence I am everything a lawyer should not be!  When I first joined my current chambers, 1 Gray’s Inn Square,  I was nicknamed Erin Brokovich and the name seems to have stuck..but for those of you wondering..I don’t have legs like Julia Roberts, it is due to my attitude…I will leave you to your own thoughts on that one!