My first 6 months as Legal Trainee and Justice First Fellow

Eilidh Turnbull presenting to Skadden Arps


by Eilidh Turnbull

In January, I started my legal traineeship at JustRight Scotland. A legal traineeship is a two-year period of in-office training, which you do after studying law at university. After these two years, I will qualify as a solicitor.
My traineeship is part of the Justice First Fellowship scheme which aims to support the next generation of social welfare lawyers to deliver justice for communities. My fellowship is sponsored by Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom (UK) LLP, through Skadden’s Justice First Skadden Trainee (JUST) Programme.

In 2017, when I was still studying at university, I was JustRight Scotland’s first ever intern. At that time there were only 4 members of staff. Since then, the organisation has gone from strength to strength and there are now almost 30 of us in the team! Since interning at JustRight Scotland (JRS) I have worked in the human rights and migration sector in policy, training and communications roles. When the trainee role was announced last year, I knew I had to apply as I really believe in our goal of using the law to defend and extend people’s rights.

I believe training to be a solicitor is my own way of working towards a fairer and more just Scotland for everyone, using the law as a tool for social change.

My role at JustRight Scotland

JRS has four legal centres: the Scottish Refugee and Migrants Centre, the Scottish Women’s Rights Centre, the Scottish Anti-Trafficking & Exploitation Centre and the Scottish Just Law Centre. Over the two years of my traineeship, I will spend 6 months in each centre.

I have just spent my first 6 months at the Scottish Refugee and Migrant Centre.
The past 6 months have been an interesting, complex and at times upsetting time to be working in human rights and immigration sector in the UK.
Just think about the war in Ukraine, the announcement of plans the repeal the Human Rights Act (an important law which protects the human rights of all of us in the UK) and the passing of a new law, the Nationality and Borders Act, which will have a massive impact on the lives of people who are seeking safety in UK.
When you read about changes to law in policy in the news, it can sometimes feel like it is not something that will impact our lives, that it is something that will happen to other people.

Working directly with people who are seeking safety in Scotland over the last 6 months has made clear to me that we need to question this.
For every news report when we see of people crossing the channel or being told they are going to be deported to Rwanda, we need to think that these are stories and people’s lives. There are people who have fled their own countries, often having to leave their family members and loved ones behind with the only goal of finding a place where they can finally be safe. At times like these, it is so important for us all to work together in order to not only protect the rights we do have but to use to law to create a fairer country for all of us.

Working in partnership for a more equal country

I am proud to be part of JRS and work alongside partner organisations who are all working towards the same aim. One of my favourite parts of the past 6 months has been our Refugee Week event which celebrated the work and contributions of grassroot organisations, networks and organisations who help and support refugees and asylum seekers across Scotland. I think it reminded many of us of the strength of our communities and the importance of solidarity.

I will soon move on the Scottish Women’s Rights Centre where I will learn about a whole new area of law and work with women who have been affected by abuse and violence in Scotland with the aim of improving their access to justice and experience of the justice system. I am really looking forward to learning from my colleagues, both lawyers and non-lawyers, and the women who we support. I believe that my time at JRS is equipping me with the skills and knowledge needed to play my own role in creating positive change.

JustRight Scotland is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation (SC047818) which provides legal services through its limited liability partnership, JustRight Scotland LLP which trades as JustRight Scotland (SO305962). This firm has been authorised to act as solicitors by the Law Society of Scotland (Registered No 53703).

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