Free Representation Unit
Our charity represents clients in tribunals and trains aspiring lawyers.
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 gain practical advocacy, client care and case management 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. Our lower tier tribunal cases are taken on in London and the south of England, and in the East Midlands through a partnership with Nottingham Law School. Employment Appeal Tribunal and Upper Tier cases are taken on from throughout England & Wales.
With over 350 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 of FRU`s practice areas and then must complete a test. 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.
We have a partnership with Linklaters LLP and we host a pupil barrister. We are keen to develop further partnerships with law firms and chambers to provide advocacy experience for lawyers who are early in their careers or for established lawyers who would like to do some crucial pro bono work.