Lawyer awards recognise pro bono work by UWE students

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The Legal Advocacy Support Project, a partnership between Avon & Bristol Law Centre (ABLC), the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) and the University of Law has won ‘Pro Bono Initiative of the Year’ at The Lawyer Awards 2016. The announcement was made at a gala dinner at the O2 Intercontinental Hotel, London, attended by over 1,000 people from law firms across the country last night.

Whilst at UWE Bristol Law School, students are actively encouraged to get involved in a variety of projects from supporting local residents in dealing with community issues to providing free legal advice and assistance to members of the public.

This pro bono work provides UWE students with a great way of gaining experience in legal work and learning how to provide law-related advice.

UWE Bristol students have been volunteering at the ABLC advising claimants challenging changes made to their disability entitlement for over three years. To date they have helped to win more than £1 million in benefits for clients incorrectly judged to be capable of working by the Department for Work and Pensions.

Clare Carter, ABLC’s Director, said, “We are immensely proud of our team who are working with the some of the most disadvantaged people in our community. Following cuts in legal aid, these people have nowhere else to turn. This project is now a model that other areas of the country are following.”

Marcus Keppel-Palmer, UWE’s pro bono liaison, said, “We are delighted that the Avon & Bristol Law Centre has been recognised for the pro bono partnership with the University.

“At ABLC, our student volunteers have helped to advise claimants by challenging changes made to their disability entitlement. Since the project started the success rate of appeals made by the students and ABLC stands well above the national average at 95 per cent.

“Last year we announced that the students had helped to win more than £1 million in benefits for clients incorrectly judged to be capable of working by the Department for Work and Pensions.

“Recognition at The Lawyer Awards 2016 for our partners at Avon & Bristol Law Centre is wonderful news and demonstrates huge success for our commitment to pro bono work and the mutual benefits that both organisations have derived from this.

“We are committed to giving students as many opportunities through extra-curricular activities such as pro bono, whether at undergraduate or postgraduate level.

“Our students devote significant amounts of their time to assisting the local community, and we are very proud of the recognition for the link with the Avon & Bristol Law Centre.”

The project has helped more than 200 people over the last two years with an average of £5,000 won for each client.

Students who take part in pro bono work do well in the future as is borne out by the University’s Destination of Leavers in Higher Education data released today showing that 96% of UWE Bristol law graduates were in employment or further study just six months after graduation.

Money management app created by UWE graduate attracts £1.5 million investment

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A start-up company spearheaded by a former University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) student has received a £1.5 million investment.

Law graduate Oliver Purdue has secured backing from high-profile investors for his banking service Loot just two years after finishing his studies.

The company, which also employs UWE Bristol undergraduate Chris Denny, is aimed at helping students balance their books through a smart money management app.

Loot has the features of a traditional bank account, such as ATM cash withdrawals and transfers, along with a specially-designed app targeted at helping customers stick to their budget.

Oliver, 22, set up the company shortly before graduating from UWE Bristol in 2014 having grown frustrated in his attempts to budget effectively using the app offered by his High Street bank.

He spotted a gap in the market after noting that while established banks were offering generous interest-free overdrafts and gifts to entice students, they were failing to help them manage their finances to make sure loans stretched across the entire academic year.

Users of the app will soon be able to benchmark their outlay against other students to check if they are overspending, and access tailored offers designed to help them save money.

On the inspiration behind the company, Oliver said: “I found that my banking app just showed my current balance, which didn’t really mean much to me. When students have their loans come in, their bank balance makes it looks like they have loads of money. But it doesn’t tell them how much that actually amounts to per week, until they get their next loan in.”

Loot launched at seven universities in September and plans to expand this year. The company has attracted £1.5 million in investment from Austrian early stage fund Speedinvest and Global Founders Capital.

Chris, also 22, a third year philosophy student set to graduate this summer, met Oliver at UWE Bristol and also worked alongside him at an Apple Store in Bristol.

Of the company, he said: “It’s a banking service for students and young people – one of its main features is that it helps students manage their money better. It doesn’t just tell you how much money you’ve got, as other banking apps do. You can set a savings goal which can help you budget, giving you a day-to-day spending limit. There is also categorisation, so you can see where you have spent your money, whether it’s food, going out, entertainment or clothes. We believe this makes it more meaningful.

“You will be able to compare your spending with other students. With food, for example, you might not know what constitutes a reasonable amount to spend on food in a week. If you are spending too much, relative to other students, we can provide customers with offers to help them save money.”

Loot is aiming to become the leading student banking provider, tapping into a potential market of more than two million people in the UK. Students are reportedly the least satisfied bank customers and use more paid-for money management apps than other consumers.

The 14-strong team behind Loot is hoping to make a major breakthrough in the burgeoning fin tech sector, with plans to invest its new funding in marketing and recruitment.

Chris said Loot would eventually generate profit through international transfers, but by charging a smaller fee than the established banks, and through its targeted promotions for customers.

He said: “Our first few months have been really great. Now we are moving on to the next stage, which is development, perfecting the iOS app and looking at launching an Android version so more people can use it. The investment will allow us to grow our team.”

The prepaid card which comes with a Loot account is an electronic money product. Although regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority, it is not covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme.

£50 million UWE Business and Law building is a step closer

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The new £50 million Faculty of Business and Law at UWE Bristol (the University of the West of England) is a step closer to completion.

The new state-of-the-art building will house Bristol Business School and Bristol Law School and is part of the University’s campus development plan to build a University for the 21st Century.

A ceremony is being held on 4 May [2016] to mark construction reaching the top floor of the landmark building.

Simon Walker, Director General of the Institute of Directors and an Honorary Graduand from UWE Bristol will mark the occasion by securing a golden bolt on the top floor of the building on Wednesday 4 May.

The new building is located on the northern side of the plaza at the heart of developments on the UWE Bristol Frenchay Campus and is due for completion by January 2017.

The new building will ensure that staff, students and businesses have access to world class facilities and it will enable achievement of the core of the Faculty strategy: engagement with the business sector in the region.

Research by the Association of Business Schools and the Chartered Management Institute, shows that UK business schools and businesses, who are key employers of graduates, could benefit from closer working relationships. Businesses say they want ‘business-ready’ graduates, and key to achieving this are student placements and work experience which are a core part of the vision for the Faculty.

The numbers of UWE Bristol business graduates entering professional jobs within 6 months of graduation has been consistently ahead of the marketplace for business graduates. The latest data based on the 2013/14 Destination of Leavers in Higher Education (DLHE) produced by the Higher Education Statistics Agency showed 74% of UWE Bristol graduates entering professional jobs immediately after graduation compared to a national figure of 67%, confirming the capability of these graduates and the underlining demand in the region.

Working closely with a modern practice-based university like UWE Bristol brings huge benefits for business and this new facility will foster formal and informal interaction between businesses and the University.

Simon Walker, Director General of the Institute of Directors says,“UWE Bristol is a great university with impressive international reach. It should be commended for investing in the workforce of the future. Access to skills is a major concern for IoD members, as shortages in key areas can prevent businesses from growing. Management, professional, commercial and entrepreneurial skills are vital to this region. UWE’s effort will create strong career opportunities for students and employees alike.”

Key professional organisations will have a base in the new building enabling barristers, accountants, small business owners and start-ups to mix with staff and students in the learning and social areas. Throughout the building there will be flexible workspaces available for staff, students and visitors to use.

Donna Whitehead Pro Vice-Chancellor and Executive Dean of the Faculty of Business and Law says, “This will be a live environment where staff and students and business work together – with collaboration and collegiality at its core. We consult with our advisory board of key business figures who challenge us to make our provision meet the needs of employers and the latest developments in the business world.

“Our students are very enterprising – for example we have very successful Pro Bono work carried out by Law students offering free legal advice to victims of domestic violence and benefit claimants – resulting in successfully gaining £1m in welfare benefits for people wrongly declared fit for work. We plan to develop this model of Pro Bono work for a business audience – enabling our students, with supervision, to offer advice to small businesses on areas such as start-ups, intellectual property, HR issues, marketing and communications. These activities help us to be engaged with the region, and they benefit students by giving them live experience interacting with business owners and developers.

“This new building will enable us to deliver our strategy by providing a first-class teaching and learning environment comprising lecture facilities, teaching and seminar rooms, as well as specialist learning facilities such as a trading room, team entrepreneurship hubs and law courts. It will have spaces that encourage interaction and learning areas enhanced by the latest technology, as well as zones for all subject areas.”

Bristol Business School and Bristol Law School educate future professionals in all aspects of business and law – from entrepreneurship, management, leadership, strategy through to economists, accountants, marketing and human resources. As well as offering academic law courses they also train barristers and solicitors. They provide alongside this, relevant research into important business and law issues that confront both businesses and society.

Innovative new courses, such as the successful Business Team Entrepreneurship degree, enable students to respond to the challenges of creating their own businesses during their time at university.

The new building will include: two showcase law courts, a city trading room, a 300 seat lecture theatre, two Harvard lecture theatres, a number of smaller teaching spaces, IT suites, flexible social learning spaces, external business engagement space, central social space and café.

ISG is the main contractor for the project.

The University is currently seeking further funding from the business and alumni community to develop Technology Enhanced Learning classrooms to deliver the very best in student learning experience and teaching. At the same time this will give these businesses access to talented students and graduates, research and development.

Why do we British find the EU so hard to swallow and why does it matter to business?

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Britain, Business and Europe 2016 Series

To register

Sir Stephen Wall, the former foreign policy advisor to John Major and Tony Blair, sets out his thoughts on Britain’s often difficult relationship with Europe and why it matters to British business and the UK economy at UWE Bristol’s Exhibition and Conference Centre, on Wednesday 20 January 2016.

The event forms part of a series of special events during 2016 discussing Britain, Business and Europe, is hosted by UWE Bristol in collaboration with Business West.

In the half century since the British Government first applied to join the European Community, British membership has been a matter of ceaseless controversy. Why? And what implications does this have on our long term economic interest and the UK’s global influence?

Sir Stephen will discuss why the British find the EU so hard to swallow and why the idea of ‘leaving Europe’ dominates political discussion in a way that is unique among European nations. The United Kingdom is the only Member State ever to have had a referendum on whether to stay in only two years after joining. Why are we now the only Member State which seriously contemplates leaving? Why do other Member States think we treat them less as partners than as adversaries? What risks does this pose to our economy and global influence?

This year is likely to see a referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union. Companies across the South West will find themselves part of a passionate debate with potentially far reaching consequences for the environment in which they do business. Sir Stephen’s insider and long term view will shed light on the dilemma facing voters, businesses and politicians and help stimulate debate on what the referendum vote means for the UK.

Series organiser, UWE Bristol’s Professor Nicholas O’Regan says, “We’re delighted to welcome Sir Stephen Wall to get our 2016 Bristol Distinguished Address Series off to a flying start with one of the year’s hot political debates – the Brexit referendum. This series has become a popular event for the Bristol business community, with the opportunity to network and hear directly from inspirational figures in industry with a wealth of strategic experience and leadership skills at the highest level.”

Phil Smith, Managing Director, Business West, says, “This event launches a series of events to better inform the business community about the European Union and the referendum debate. We are lucky to have such an experienced, informed and respected speaker to help kick off what promises to be a full and passionate year of discussions.

“When we surveyed nearly a thousand local businesses last year, two thirds believed that leaving the European Union could pose a direct risk to their own business. This demonstrates that for many South West firms the referendum is not an abstract question, but one with real and personal consequences. Our members also strongly felt the need for a better informed debate with more detailed information about the costs and benefits of the European Union. Sir Stephen’s visit is the perfect way to start this business discussion on Europe.”

The Bristol Distinguished Address Series is delivered by the Bristol Business School in partnership withACCA,Bristol City Council, Bristol Junior Chamber, Bristol Post, Business West, CBI, CMI, FSB, IoD,ICAEW and the West of England LEP.

Discuss this event on Twitter using the hashtag #BristolLectures

Students behind £1 million benefits victory up for national award

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Law students’ work representing benefits claimants wrongly declared fit for employment has helped secure a nomination for a national award.

University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) students have been volunteering at the Avon & Bristol Law Centre advising claimants challenging changes made to their disability entitlement. They have helped win more than £1 million in benefits for clients incorrectly judged to be capable of working by the Department for Work and Pensions.

The highly successful collaboration with the law centre is now in the running for the title Most Effective Pro Bono Partnership at the LawWorks Annual Pro Bono Awards. The partnership – which also involves students from the University of Law – has been included in a four-strong shortlist for the prize.

Since the project began three years ago, the success rate of appeals made by the students and law centre stands well above the national average at 95 per cent.

Marcus Keppel-Palmer, UWE’s pro bono liaison, said, “Recognition by LawWorks in shortlisting the Legal Advocacy Support Project for the 2015 Awards is excellent news for the pro bono commitment that UWE has. As a full service Law School, we are committed to giving students as many opportunities through extra-curricular activities such as pro bono, whether at undergraduate or postgraduate level.

“Many of our students devote significant amounts of their time to assisting the local community, and we are very proud of the recognition for the link with the Avon & Bristol Law Centre.”

The project has helped more than 200 people over the last two years with an average of £5,000 won for each client.

UWE Bristol students have become a familiar sight at Bristol’s Social Security and Child Support Tribunal, where they represent clients at their benefit appeals in front of a judge and doctor. The project recruits the brightest law students to ensure the best results for clients. All the UWE students on the project who graduated this year have received First Class degrees.

The LawWorks Annual Pro Bono Awards recognise and celebrate achievement in legal pro bono work undertaken by organisations and individuals, and the dedication and commitment of the legal sector to positively impact individuals and communities.

The awards on Tuesday November 24 will be hosted by legal commentator and journalist Joshua Rozenberg, with an inaugural annual lecture given by Director of Liberty Shami Chakrabarti CBE.

Martin Barnes, Chief Executive of LawWorks, said, “The LawWorks Pro Bono Awards provide an opportunity to celebrate the legal profession’s dedication to improving lives and enabling access to justice and I would like to congratulate all the finalists. The quality and range of nominations demonstrate innovation and commitment to pro bono and we are grateful to all who took the time to nominate.”

New Pro Vice-Chancellor and Executive Dean of FBL appointed

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Donna Whitehead, currently Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Business and Society at the University of South Wales has been appointed as Pro Vice-Chancellor and Executive Dean of the Faculty of Business and Law at UWE Bristol (the University of the West of England).

Donna brings a wealth of experience to UWE Bristol from her current and previous roles.

The Faculty of Business and Society at the University of South Wales, where Donna is currently Deputy Dean, has three schools: the South Wales Business School; the School of Law, Accounting and Finance; and the School of Humanities and Social Sciences. In previous roles Donna was Head of School for the School of Law, Accounting and Finance (first at the University of Glamorgan and then at the University of South Wales) and Team Leader for the Law School at the University of Sunderland.

Much of Donna’s current role is externally facing, including representing the university and Welsh government in the financial and professional services sector in Wales and beyond as well as collaborating with Welsh government and employers to drive new business in Wales and for the University. Donna was responsible for developing the innovative MSc Financial Services Management degree in collaboration with four key employers in Wales.

Donna worked for the law professional bodies as a JASB representative for a number of years; she has held the role of trustee of the RCT Citizens Advice Bureau and has been a member of the Confederation of South Wales Law Societies. Recently she was a member of the QAA Law Benchmark Review Group. Donna acts as a mentor for senior leaders within and outside of the University.

Donna is passionate about creating an excellent student experience and has led initiatives in this area including the use of lecture capture software, the launch of a Legal and Financial Advice Clinic and has worked collaboratively with colleagues to improve NSS results. Donna has an interest in quality assurance and enhancement and has acted as chair of Faculty quality assurance committees at her current and former institution and has led her Faculty in their recent QAA review.

Speaking about her appointment Donna says, “I am really excited about working with my new colleagues to deliver the objectives set out in the 2020 plan. FBL has some excellent practice already taking place and I’m looking forward to helping to build that further. The new build for the Faculty will be wonderful and should really enhance the student learning experience.”

Professor Jane Harrington, Deputy Vice Chancellor, at UWE Bristol says, “We are delighted that Donna will be joining us and we are looking forward to working with her on our ambitious plans for the Faculty. UWE, Bristol prides itself on an excellent student experience delivered through practice led curriculum which enables students to experience work both within the university and through placements and internships during their study with us. We are really pleased to welcome Donna to the university, sharing our passion for excellence in learning and teaching and the student experience”

Donna has a first degree in law from the University of Sunderland and an MPhil from the University of Newcastle. She also holds the Legal Practice Course and the New York Bar examinations as qualifications. Donna is a senior fellow of the Higher Education Academy. Donna’s teaching and research interest is family law and in particular, assisted reproduction and parenthood.

UWE Bristol award Honorary Degree to Jonathan Fisher QC

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UWE Bristol awarded the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws to Jonathan Fisher QC in recognition of his outstanding legal expertise and academic contribution to the areas of financial and corporate law.

The Honorary Degree was conferred at the Awards Ceremony of the Faculty of Business and Law on Friday 17 July 2015 at Bristol Cathedral.

Jonathan is a leading barrister at Devereux Chambers in London specialising in financial crime cases. He was called to the Bar in 1980.

During his early years, he undertook a wide range of work involving family and civil law disputes as well as many criminal cases, often representing defendants in VAT gold bullion frauds. In 1991, he became Standing Counsel to HM Commissioners of Inland Revenue at the Central Criminal Court and London Crown Courts, a position held until 2003. During this period, he prosecuted major tax fraud cases including the case against Nissan UK where the tax loss exceeded £100 million. Also, he prosecuted cases for the Serious Fraud Office, such as the celebrated Millennium Champagne and Malt Whisky frauds.

After becoming Queen’s Counsel in 2003, he appeared for defendants in large cross-border VAT frauds. Today, he is known for advising and representing individuals, companies and Government authorities in domestic and international cases involving fraud, corruption, money laundering, financial markets offences and tax disputes. He was a specialist adviser to the House of Commons Treasury Committee in the last Parliament, assisting with investigations into LIBOR, Lloyds TSB and FOREX trading. He provides professional training on anti-money laundering issues for the European Union, Council of Europe and UKTI.

In parallel with practice, he has held academic positions at leading Universities. Between 1986 and 2006 he held part-time positions at the Cass Business School, City University London. Since 2006, he has been a Visiting Professor in Practice at the London School of Economics and teaches courses on Corporate Crime and Financial Crime on the LLM Programme. He was a Visiting Professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in December 2013.

Between 2006 and 2010, he was a Trustee Director of the Fraud Advisory Panel and a member of the Assets Recovery Agency Steering Group between 2003 and 2006. In 2009, he was recognised for his work in the field of tax evasion, becoming a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Taxation and a Chartered Tax Adviser by thesis. He has been a Committee Member of the International Bar Association’s Anti-Money Laundering Implementation Group since 2006 and an Honorary Steering Group Member of the London Fraud Forum since 2007.

He is General Editor of Lloyds Law Reports: Financial Crime and has published many papers on the international response to financial crime. The policies of the leading political parties have been influenced by his work.

Between 2006 and 2010, he was Chairman of Research of the Society of Conservative Lawyers and a Commissioner on the Commission for a Bill of Rights established in 2011.

The UK legal directories have described him as “high-flying”, “a standout barrister”, “academically very highly regarded”, “having great gravitas … where the stakes are high”, “calm, sure, and deadly at spotting the weaknesses of the opponent’s case”, and “judges defer to his knowledge”.

He is married with four children and lives in Essex. He suffers as a Tottenham Hotspur fan but enjoys the theatre, art and travelling very much.