Today, the LGBTQ+ Law Clinic celebrates two years of providing LGBTQ+ individuals with the access to justice that they have historically been deprived of. In its first year, the Clinic was able to help 97 people access legal advice ranging across many areas of law including family, housing, employment, immigration, and criminal. In our second year, this number has increased to 170, showing the ever-growing demand and support for our services. We have now received 267 enquiries since our inception only two years ago.
And not only has the number of people seeking help substantially increased year on year, but the community of lawyers and volunteers willing to partner with and support the Clinic has similarly grown.
Volunteers, all of whom are themselves part of the community and often in the midst of their university education or burgeoning legal careers, have devoted countless hours to ensuring the Clinic operates efficiently. They are instrumental in supporting clients and demonstrate relentless compassion and understanding to many of the most vulnerable in our society.
It is by virtue of our aforementioned growth and name recognition, that this year we changed our name from The Cardiff LGBTQ+ Law Clinic, to The LGBTQ+ Law Clinic. To not only recognise the unique nature of the Clinic, but to also make clear our ability to advise those not only in Wales, but also those who reside in England.
However, it is only with the support of national law firms and legal support services that we could accomplish such a feat. This is why we are so incredibly grateful to have a plethora of accomplished law firms and legal organizations, willing to devote their time and resources into our partnerships. These include, but are not limited to, the multinational Eversheds Sutherland, Capital Law, Asylum Justice, The Speakeasy Law Centre, and Wendy Hopkins. All of whom have been with us from the very beginning, and whose relationship with us has continued to strengthen over the past year. We hope that they will continue to be integral to the functioning of the Clinic for years to come.
And we are thankful that we have continued to expand our network, building partnerships with two London based international law firms, including Herbert Smith Freehills, a leading global law firm.
The importance of our work has not gone unrecognised, with us receiving two awards in the past year. At the end of May 2022, The LGBTQ+ Law Clinic were awarded the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Award at the Wales Legal Awards, and in December 2022, we received the LawWorks Cymru Award at the Law Works Pro Bono Awards at a ceremony in London. The Clinic being awarded such honours is not only a recognition of our work, but crucially underlines and lays visible the legal struggles that are faced by LGBTQ+ individuals on an everyday basis.
The necessity of our work cannot be understated and the barriers facing LGBTQ+ individuals seeking legal advice are extensive. The issues that the community face will often involve an array of intersecting issues, spanning different areas of law. This complexity has led to us receiving enquiries that spawn questions of law that many lawyers have never previously addressed. Examples include capacity to consent in the context of an application for a Gender Recognition Certificate and complex, multifaceted medical negligence enquiries, both of which exclusively related to the trans community, who continue to face significant discrimination and obstacles to access their legal rights.
Below are a few sentences given to us by those very lawyers who work so closely with us, exploring what the Clinic means to them, why they joined us, and what impact they think our work is having.
“Being able to provide advice on a pro bono basis through the LGBTQ+ Clinic is something which I find hugely rewarding. I give advice to LGBTQ+ people who desperately need it, but may otherwise have to go without, due to them not having the means to pay for legal advice.
Through the LGBTQ+ Law Clinic, I have been able to advise people in unhappy relationships about how to legally end the same and deal with the issues that follow on from separation, such as dividing up their finances and agreeing on child arrangements.” – Sam John, Wendy Hopkins
“The existence of the LGBTQ+ Law Clinic is itself illustrative of the environment that LGBTQ+ people are currently facing in Wales, and more broadly across the UK. This is particularly the case for trans people.
We collaborate with the LGBTQ+ Law Clinic to help LGBTQ+ individuals identify their rights in an employment setting, and to navigate ways for them to enforce those rights.
We are proud to show our solidarity to an organisation which has become a vital source of support for the LGBTQ+ community here in Cardiff and look forward to growing and developing our relationship with them.” – Garyn Young, Capital Law
“I'm proud to assist the LGBTQ Law Clinic. So many of us in the LGBTQ+ community face barriers to obtaining legal advice, including simply not feeling comfortable to approach a lawyer and trust we will be treated with respect and compassion.
The LGBTQ Law Clinic helps many overcome this barrier, being a part of and understanding the LGBTQ community. By providing advice on a vast range of issues, the clinic enables our community to be heard and seek justice and legal support.” – Georgia Nickson, Herbert Smith Freehills
“The LGBTQ+ Law Clinic is doing unique and vital work for the LGBTQ+ community in the UK through its clinic work, which recognises that people's marginalised identities are often inextricable from the legal issues they encounter. We are proud to partner with the Clinic to provide legal support as part of our commitment to broadening access to justice for all.” – Anonymous, London based law firm
“I think the LGBTQ Law Clinic has been doing some great work over the last two years and it is pleasing to see the growth in clients it is helping.
Eversheds Sutherland is pleased to assist the clients of the clinic which combines our visions for pro bono (providing free legal advice and access to justice to individuals and organisations who would not otherwise be able to access legal services) and D&I (having a diverse team and an inclusive culture that places respect and support for everyone at its core and empowers all of our people around the world to fulfil their potential).” – Martin Holden, Eversheds Sutherland
We hope to develop and expand our role in the right for trans rights, and we believe crucial to that is to develop partnerships across the support sector. This is why we have as of the new year, entered into a partnership with the NHS Welsh Gender Service (WGS). The WGS have seen first hand the difficulties that trans individuals face whilst trying to navigate a complex system that was simply not built to accommodate nor support them. And with their medical journey can often come difficult legal questions, in how it relates to their identity documents, their workplace, and their wellbeing.
To ensure there is an option for accessing legal advice, the WGS have given The LGBTQ+ Law Clinic a room within the Gender Clinic, based in St David’s Hospital, Cardiff. This is the first service of its kind to be offered in the UK, and we are very excited for the potential of such a space, and what it could mean for the trans community in Wales.
Frankly, over the past two years, the outpour of support from LGBTQ+ individuals, charitable organisations and the legal sector, has been heart-warming. The Clinic would not be where it is today without the tireless work of all our volunteers; the lawyers who give their time to advising clients and the community groups that continue to vocalise their solidarity with the cause.
Thank you from everyone here at The LGBTQ+ Law Clinic.
Article written by Clinic volunteer, Sonia Azam.