Advocates support a range of charities

20 Dec

Ruth Crawford KC, Treasurer of the Faculty of Advocates

CHRISTMAS is a time when family and friends can gather to enjoy a warm, fun-filled festive atmosphere and exchange gifts. With festivities being severely curtailed during the past two years due to Covid-19 restrictions, many people are looking forward to Christmas even more so than usual.

Faculty is acutely aware of the cost-of-living challenges this Christmas, not just by people within the legal sector and its staff and suppliers, but also by the wider community across Scotland and beyond that it serves. It is also fully cognisant of its responsibility to offer support, not just at Christmas, but throughout the year.

It is indeed heartening to see the strong response to the eighth Faculty Christmas Collection, which supports vulnerable families in Fife, facilitated through Home-Start, a charity that helps families with young children. This appeal, launched and run by Faculty member Maria Maguire KC, has again received fantastic support from Faculty members, its staff, solicitors, the judiciary and other donors. Donations received include toys, books, games, new clothes, and non-perishable sweet and savoury Christmas treats. Cash donations will go towards food vouchers and an emergency fund for families who need urgent help with accommodation, essential items, beds and duvets for children, and household appliances.

Ms Maguire’s willingness to donate her time and effort here reflects the overall commitment from her colleagues at Parliament House to give back. Many of our advocates and staff members are involved in fundraising activities in support of a wide range of charities – some of which involve a fairly serious physical commitment. There are numerous examples here, including Faculty member Craig Murray, who swam the English Channel to raise funds for charity and advocate Malcolm McGregor, who completed the Pyrenees Stage Run. There are other initiatives supported by members and staff that have been undertaken in memory of colleagues Faculty has sadly lost, such as a charity cycle event in memory of Stephen O’Rourke, monies from which will be donated to the Samaritans.

Among the charitable initiatives that Faculty supports throughout the year is the Tumbling Lassie appeal, which raises funds on behalf of charities that help survivors of modern slavery and people trafficking. After a break in activities due to the pandemic, the six advocates on The Tumbling Lassie Committee organised a successful operetta performance earlier this year to raise funds, recently held an educational and social event sponsored by Faculty, and have other events, including an annual Ball, planned for 2023.

This year the Faculty of Advocates Criminal Bar Association (FACBA) donated to several Glasgow-based charities that support people struggling with homelessness, vulnerable youth and those battling cancer. The Faculty’s Free Legal Services Unit, which undertakes pro bono work, participated in this year’s #GreatLegalBake campaign, held during Pro Bono Week to raise funds for charity.

Faculty also partners with other organisations in giving back to the communities they serve, including the Lawscot Foundation. Established in 2016, Lawscot supports academically talented students from less-advantaged backgrounds in Scotland through their legal education journey.

Faculty also provides sponsorships to other initiatives each year focussed on education and skills building, such as Speak up Scotland and the Edinburgh Mini Trials. Apart from contributing financially, our members also donate their time to help participating schoolchildren improve their debating skills while transferring knowledge about the Scottish justice system and how to build a career in the legal profession.

University students also receive support from Faculty. An example here is the key role played by members to help University of Edinburgh law students compete against teams from around the world in the Willem C Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot this year.

Advocate Fergus Whyte, who acted as lead coach, was joined by Faculty members Jordanna Blockley, Tom Mulhall, Emma Boffey and Jonathan Deans in helping students to develop their written and oral advocacy skills. The Faculty’s Director of Training and Education, Hugh Olson, and advocates David Bartos and John Brannigan, assisted with aspects of advocacy training.

Faculty will continue to offer help in the new year, in keeping with our ongoing commitment to alleviating hardship as and where we can.

I’d like to take this opportunity to extend Faculty’s warm wishes to everyone over the festive period and for the New Year.

This article first appeared in The Scotsman here.