In 2013 A&L Goodbody sought support from the Public Interest Law Alliance (PILA) to source a project that would address an unmet legal need in Irish society.They were matched with the Irish Refugee Council’s (IRC) Independent Law Centre (Law Centre) to develop a unique pro bono service for people claiming refugee status in Ireland.
Asylum seekers are not allowed to work and most are forced to rely upon the State’s ‘direct provision’ arrangements. If their claims are not resolved at first instance, they may live in these conditions for many years. However, apart from the Law Centre which can only employ a small team of lawyers, there is no provision in most cases for legal representation before the appeal stage.
In close collaboration with the Law Centre which facilitates training and mentoring of A&LG’s lawyers, and refers the clients, they developed a pro bono service providing early legal advice and representation to asylum seekers who have recently arrived in Ireland.
To date, 82 A&L Goodbody lawyers have delivered 2,840 pro bono hours and have assisted in 26 cases, one of which involved urgent High Court judicial review proceedings on a novel legal point. For example, they successfully represented two Iranian human rights lawyers forced to flee after imprisonment and death threats delivered by a judge. They also represented several clients who have experienced persecution, including torture and ‘corrective rape’, on account of their LGBT status. The lawyers involved are very proud of the firm for taking on this project, and for giving them the opportunity to both volunteer and upskill in a new area of law.
The annual A&L Goodbody and Irish Refugee Council Asylum Law Award was launched in 2015 to provide UCD students with the opportunity to gain invaluable legal expertise before applying for a career in law.
In November 2015 A&L Goodbody and the Law Centre were jointly awarded the ‘2015 European Award for Local Pro Bono Impact‘ by PILnet at the European Pro Bono Forum. The citation said: “By leveraging local resources and applying them to an international issue, A&L Goodbody and the Law Centre established effective legal remedies and provided invaluable legal assistance to vulnerable populations in Ireland. The influence of this project will not only be felt in Ireland but across Europe.”
“Training is an extremely important element to maintaining a high level of service for our clients. We work very closely with the IRC on this and organise regular updates and training for our lawyers.”
Pictured above: PILnet European Pro Bono Awards, Rome: Brian, Collins (IRC), Eamonn Conlon, (Partner, A&LG), Tamas Barabas and Marieanne McKeown (PILnet)