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Society Profile: Lawyers Without Borders

Monday 23 January 2017

Queen Mary Lawyers Without Borders (QMLWOB) is a student division of the non-profit NGO Lawyers Without Borders. We caught up with society president Melina Tsangarides to talk about the aims of the society, the work they do both within and outside QMUL, and what events they have coming up this year.

For those of us who haven’t heard of Lawyers Without Borders, could you tell us about the organisation?

Lawyers Without Borders (LWOB) is an international non-governmental, non-profit organisation registered in the United States, United Kingdom and Kenya, dedicated to advancing access to justice, human rights and the Rule of Law. This is achieved through programmes that support transparency, capacity building and service to the underserved while maintaining a neutral orientation in all of its work. LWOB holds special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council Division (ECOSOC) of the United Nations, has associative status with the United Nations Department of Public Information (DPI) and is accredited to the Department at the UN on the question of Palestine. LWOB and its lawyers engage regularly with the United Nations. LWOB online volunteers through the United Nations Online Volunteering service have been recognised for four successive years for their contributions to human rights and development through their work with LWOB.
LWOB channels legal service and counsel through lawyers who work both virtually and in the field. It recruits and manages lawyers from around the world and from a wide variety of practice sectors in the legal profession.

What are the main aims of the student division of Lawyers Without Borders at QMUL?

As a student division of Lawyers Without Borders, our role within the wider network of the parent organisation extends beyond raising student awareness to direct participation in ongoing projects of our parent organisation. At the same time, we advocate for a robust pro bono culture among young aspiring lawyers as well as non-law students alike, firmly convinced of the numerous skills and knowledge it offers as training foundation towards a successful career, legal and otherwise.

Can you tell us about some of your successes as a society?

As a student division our most significant achievement was our collaboration with the International Bar Association (IBA) with which we still have contacts. Another one of our achievements was that we won first place in the Rule of Law competition organised by LWOB. It is a UK-wide competition among the student divisions of the organisation (17 in total) and we were asked to create a board game on a rule of law problem which will then be produced by the organisation and distributed in the market.

What is your favourite memory of your time with Lawyers without Borders?

My favourite memory was last year’s General Council where the six founding student divisions (of which QMUL is one) meet and discuss issues relating to human rights, rule of law, general humanitarian crises and atrocities against humanity as well as issues relating to the organisation at large. It is an amazing opportunity to meet like-minded students from other universities across the UK. 

Could you give us a taste of the types of events that take place in a typical year in the society?

In a typical year we hold events such as speeches on current issues, debates, and moots with one of the other student divisions. We participate in the annual Rule of Law competition of LWOB and we hold various careers events including information about internships with LWOB and the IBA. We also offer research tasks which are real life cases that LWOB receive and they need groups of students to research the various scenarios and deliver an opinion on a matter. This opinion will be used in their work on the specific case afterwards.

What sort of opportunities do you offer to students who aren’t members?

Our events are open to everyone but non-members cannot take on a research task or apply for any internship.

What advice would you give to a student who is thinking of joining but isn’t sure if it’s for them?

If you are interested in human rights and how the law has an impact on the progress of society then you should join our society. It is not only for law students as at times we require a lot of different skills. For instance, in the Rule of Law competition we looked for students who study engineering in order to help us create the board game, and in various projects of the International Bar Association we aim to reach for students who speak a variety of languages.

How would a student go about joining the organisation or taking part in one of the many opportunities you offer?

This semester we are going to hold events on internships and how students can get involved more actively with the organisation. You can follow our page on Facebook to stay updated: facebook.com/qmlwob

Do you have any big plans for the rest of the year?

We have a very interesting event coming up: eyeWitness is an app created by the IBA which seeks to bring the perpetrators of atrocities to justice by providing a tool for human rights defenders, journalists, and other courageous citizens to capture verifiable footage related to international atrocity crimes. eyeWitness offers an easy-to-use camera app that captures the metadata needed to ensure the images can be used in investigations or trials and safely stores the information in a storage facility maintained by the eyeWitness organisation. The eyeWitness expert team then becomes an ongoing advocate for the footage, analysing the information and working with the appropriate legal authorities to promote accountability for those who commit the worst international crimes.

QMLWOB has formed a partnership with the IBA in relation to this project; in the near future members will be able to join the IBA's project and work through it. This event is an introduction to what exactly the project is about, whether your skills match their work, and you will be able to form a first point of contact with the manager of the project.

It is taking place on Tuesday 31 January at 6pm in the David Sizer LT, Bancroft Building, Mile End campus.

You can attend the event on Facebook so that you receive a reminder before the day and stay up-to-date with what is happening: facebook.com/events/1094952003948178.

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