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Graham Herschel has been nominated for LawWorks and Attorney General’s Student Pro Bono awards

Second year student Graham Herschel has been shortlisted for the prestigious LawWorks and Attorney General’s Student Pro Bono awards which take place on Wednesday.

The 39-year-old undergraduate has been shortlisted for his volunteer work as one of the project managers of Chester Community Law Project (CCLP). 

This student-led pro bono initiative, run from Chester Law School, aims to educate, empower and inspire local communities – some of whose members are incredibly vulnerable. It provides guidance on a variety of legal topics and runs initiatives tailored to meet the needs of diverse sectors within Chester and the surrounding area.

Graham, from Warrington, has been shortlisted for his role as project manager of The Housing Advocacy and Access to Legal Advice project. This is a collaboration between the University of Chester Law School, Share Aid, West Cheshire Poverty Truth Commission, Weaver Vale Housing, Muir Housing and Cheshire West and Cheshire Council. It caters to those experiencing extreme poverty and/or homelessness and was nominated for the Law Works Awards earlier this academic year for Best New Pro Bono Project.

Graham, who manages a team of six student volunteers, explained: “The project gives a voice and practical support to those facing, experiencing, or transitioning from homelessness.

“Our work in progress involves producing pictorial fact sheets and short videos to empower individuals who are faced with navigating the complex system around tenants’ rights, eviction challenges and seeking formal ‘homeless’ status with the local council.

“It also includes the Plain English Project where we review common letters sent by the local authority relating to tenancy, eviction and review processes with a view to producing plain English ‘translations’ of these letters, and we are also looking to produce short, bitesize video explainers to accompany these letters.”

Lecturer Andy Todd, Senior Lecturer in Law and Director of Pro Bono and Community Engagement at Chester Law School, said: “Graham demonstrates unwavering commitment to investing his time and energy in projects which impact the most vulnerable in society and has been instrumental in setting up, and managing teams of students on, projects which have an impact on those in our local community facing poverty and homelessness.”

In addition to the project, Graham also manages the relationship between the Law School and Pennysmart Community Interest Company (CIC), which aims to reduce financial exclusion and poverty by delivering money, debt and benefits advice and money education.  Graham also leads the collaboration with Weaver Vale Housing’s Money Matters team, whereby  student volunteers shadow advisers from the Money Matters team to gain an insight into the work of the specialists advising  people experiencing financial hardship who are not receiving the benefits and/or PIP payments they are entitled to. 

Andy added: “During their second year, our students undertake a five-week work placement as part of a credit-bearing Work Based Learning module. Many use this opportunity to work with solicitors and barristers to help their future employment prospects. Such is Graham’s commitment to social justice, he has declined the opportunity to gain a foothold with local firms, and instead has organised placements with our community partners at ShareAid, Weaver Vale Housing Group and Muir Housing Group, in order to better understand the challenges faced by those impacted by poverty and homelessness and those who support them. This is reflective of Graham's commitment to social justice and making a difference on the ground.”

During this placement, Graham will be able to deepen his understanding of what is needed to support this sector of the local community and produce a report to influence the future direction of CCLP’s Poverty and Homelessness project.

Andy added: “Graham holds an absolute commitment to using the law, and students’ legal skills, to stand up for those who are most vulnerable. He’s committed to working alongside front line agencies to effect a change for the better ‘from the inside out’ by putting the stakeholders first and listening to what is needed before taking steps to implement project work.”

Reflecting on his nomination, Graham said: “I am very honoured to have been nominated for an award. Pro bono work is such an important part of my legal studies, it allows me to get a real feel for working in practice, and gives me solid experience that will support me as I qualify as a solicitor.

“I feel very strongly about using my skills to make a difference and it is very humbling to have been recognised in this way. None of this would be possible without the brilliant support from Chester Law School’s community engagement team and the student volunteers at the University of Chester.”

LawWorks and Attorney General Student Pro Bono Awards are supported by the Attorney General and celebrate the best pro bono activities undertaken by law students and law schools and the positive impact on those assisted.

The awards incorporate the Access to Justice Foundation award for an educational body or student which has made a significant contribution to promoting access to justice.

The Award winners will be announced at an awards ceremony at the House of Lords on Wednesday, May 4 with the Attorney General, the Rt Hon Suella Braverman QC MP.

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