Communities of Practice (CoP) help immigration advice organisations, both voluntary sector and for-profit, to work together to develop a more integrated, collaborative and client-centred legal advice system. We do this by sharing information and mutual learning, whilst exploring ways to add value to each other’s work.
The first CoP that we set up was in February 2019 in West Yorkshire. This included Refugee Action, St Augustine’s, Bradford Law Centre, DASH, St Vincent’s, IBSA Legal, McKenzie Friends Beacon, Fisherstone Solicitors and PAFRAS. Since then it has expanded to cover Yorkshire and Humberside and now has over 13 participants from 11 law firms and NGOs.
The group meets quarterly to discuss legal changes, training and challenges. Recent activities include a mapping exercise of local legal advice gaps and planning how the group could collaborate to meet those needs.
Participants said that they found the CoP useful for discovering more about each other’s work, especially opportunities to develop more joined-up referral pathways between local law firms and voluntary sector organisations.
The CoP has also been exploring ways that pro bono support could enhance regional advice services. Together, we launched a Country of Origin Information pro bono project in partnership with an international law firm.
We are also in discussion with other global law firms about the possibilities of a pro-bono partnership.
In response to requests from the Community of Practice to extend their support for each other beyond the scope of the meetings, they launched the CoP Slack channel in December 2020. The online space now has 59 members who regularly ask questions, share tips and resources.