Firm Honored by The Law Society for Excellence in Pro Bono

October 8, 2021
Coalition of law firms recognized for pro bono work on behalf of stateless individuals in the UK.

A coalition of 12 law firms, including Latham, was recognized in the “Excellence in Pro Bono category” at The Law Society’s Excellence Awards. The firms were honored for their large-scale project with Asylum Aid, a charity advising and advocating for refugees and asylum seekers. Lawyers from Akin Gump, Ashurst, Cooley, Dentons, Freshfields, Latham, Morrison & Foerster, O’Melveny, Orrick, Reed Smith, Skadden, and White & Case joined forces to assist individuals as they applied for recognition as “stateless” within the meaning of the Immigration Rules, which provides them with various protections including the right to remain. 

Launched in 2018, this collaborative project aims to help make it easier for individuals to navigate the process, particularly its complex evidentiary requirements. An estimated 12 million people are stateless, including over 600,000 living in the UK and Europe. Stateless individuals are among the world’s most vulnerable and invisible. Not only do they face destitution, homelessness, and prolonged immigration detention, but they are often denied identity documents, education, health services, and employment. To date, the project has assisted with 45 matters. Thirteen clients have already been recognized as stateless or provided other permanent status; they are able to finally obtain identity documents and secure crucial access to education, services, and employment.  

In addition to benefiting individual clients, Asylum Aid uses the work of this project as a basis for reports and advocacy to simplify and improve the application process. Advocacy from Asylum Aid has contributed, for example, to improvements in the Home Office's online application process, the system of administrative review for refused applications, and the Home Office's consideration of leave to remain for stateless persons issued deportation orders.

The Law Society’s judges “were impressed by the collaborative effort of 12 global law firms who combined their expertise and resources to provide pro bono assistance on a large scale to help Asylum Aid deal with statelessness within the UK,” and praised the team’s work for achieving “lasting and dramatic change in an area of significant public importance.”