The LawCareers.Net Handbook 2021

The Free Representation Unit

of FRU’s practice areas and then complete a test. “Only about two-thirds of the volunteers pass this test at the first attempt,” explains David. “People who pass then have to observe a tribunal case and attend an office induction, at which point they are ready to take on their first case. Volunteers can take on as few or as many cases as they wish, although many enjoy building on the skills gained in their first case and the buzz created by knowing that they did a great job for their client.” Allison Crabtree started volunteering with FRU when she was studying for the GDL at The University of Law in Moorgate, continuing through her LPC year. “I attended a training day and was attracted by the chance to do a real case,” recalls Allison. “I took the test, which was challenging but very much like one of the practical scenario-based problems I was set on the GDL. FRU has been flexible in a way that many volunteering opportunities aren’t; you have to meet with your new client quickly, stay in touch with them as things progress and be available for the tribunal date, and you often need to put in many hours of preparation, but there are no specific days or weeks to be in an office. That has made it possible for me to combine it with studying full time.” Allison explains why FRU is useful for both would-be barristers and solicitors: “Most of the other FRU volunteers I’vemet hope to become barristers and are drawn to FRU because of the advocacy experience, but I think it’s just as helpful for aspiring solicitors. Volunteers interviewclients andwitnesses, draft documents and prepare bundles. And of course many solicitors do a lot of advocacy; in employment cases, the employer’s representative in tribunal is quite often a solicitor.” FRU’s legal officers maintain close contact with the volunteers, particularly during the ratification process for the first case. “The legal officers oversee cases, provide support to the volunteers throughout and are always

The Free Representation Unit (FRU) is a charity that provides individuals with representation that they could not afford otherwise and gives junior lawyers a valuable opportunity to get practical advocacy experience. FRU represents clients in employment tribunals, social security tribunals and a small number of criminal injuries compensation cases. FRU has a handful of staff to oversee the cases and provide advice and support to the representatives, run the office and raise funds; but the volunteers take responsibility for case preparation and advocacy in the tribunals. Cases are passed on by over 200 referring agencies or by self-referral for some employment cases. David Abbott has been the charity’s chief executive since June 2017. He says: “FRU owes its success to a simple model, matching unrepresented clients facing tribunals with junior lawyers seeking the opportunity to handle cases. In bringing together these two parties, we promote access to justice and help junior lawyers gain experience that will be valuable in their future careers. Without our service, some clients might not attend their hearing or would be left with the daunting prospect of representing themselves. We don’t operate a merits test when accepting referrals, but our volunteers still have a high success rate.” FRU’s office is in Holborn, close to the heart of the legal profession and several law schools. Volunteers use the office to prepare their cases, carry out research, make use of its facilities, seek advice from the legal officers, hold conferences with clients and discuss cases and tactics with fellow volunteers. With over 300 volunteers working on cases in any given year, FRU has a rigorous training process. Would-be volunteers must attend a day-long technical training course in one


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