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The legal sector is constantly evolving and so is Leeds Law Society. We constantly strive to find new ways to meet our members’ needs and ensure that we continue to influence the changing landscape of the law.

SBA – The Solicitors’ Charity

Currently seeking a representative in Leeds

SBA – your profession, your charity
It’s a common response, especially for people outside the profession, to consider the phrase “solicitors’ charity” an oxymoron. But, as all lawyers know from their own practice, real life is seldom so tidy. Adversity can strike anyone, at any time and it can permanently curtail careers as well as destroy families.

SBA The Solicitors’ Charity has been at the heart of the legal profession for over 150 years, helping to ensure that no solicitor is unsupported in times of need or crisis. The charity was founded in 1856, when three solicitors secured a motion from the Liverpool meeting of the Metropolitan & Provincial Law Association to begin drafting its constitution. That process, painstakingly recorded through the pages of the Solicitors Journal & Reporter, took two years and the Solicitors Benevolent Association – now known as SBA The Solicitors’ Charity – was officially born in 1858.

An important word for those founding solicitors was “necessitous.” SBA was and still is fundamentally about relieving financial hardship. In 2014, it applied over £1,000,000 in grants and interest-free loans to support solicitors, former solicitors and their families. All SBA beneficiaries are “necessitous” although these days, they are more easily described as individuals who do not have the resources to pay for the normal things in life which most people would take for granted.

In the last five years, SBA has been able to distribute nearly £100,000 to Leeds lawyers and their families in need. Awards can cover a very wide range of essential everyday needs, including help with the basics, such as food, clothing and heating. SBA can also help with one-off items, for times when boilers break down or roofs need repairing. Most of us would be aggravated by such domestic challenges but, for a family coping with low or no income except statutory benefits and perhaps also dealing with poor physical health, these events can be devastating. They can also have a detrimental effect on individuals managing mental health issues, addiction and stress-related burn-out. This is one of the reasons why SBA works closely with LawCare, which offers specialist health & wellbeing support via a free, confidential helpline.

SBA also takes care of priority debts, if clearing them will bring household finances back on to an even keel. It would be inappropriate for charitable funds to be continuously applied for this purpose so, where debt issues are more serious, SBA provides free access to bespoke advice on personal insolvency and this continues until more sustainable, long-term solutions have been found.

The last few years have seen major structural changes in legal services and for colleagues in criminal justice and legal aid, darker clouds are gathering. SBA’s response has been to develop a service that is geared around practical career transition support. Solicitors who qualify under the financial criteria can join a three-month programme which offers holistic career, job search and wellbeing support via a professional consultancy.

This is an e-learning, portal-based service, backed up with one-to-one skype and telephone coaching. Where appropriate, SBA can also provide financial support during the programme, so that participants can really focus on their job search, rather than worry about day-to-day household finances.

SBA’s founding solicitors could never have foreseen the need to develop such a service, but they would certainly expect the profession’s own charity to be in a position to respond to new and emerging needs. One of the original triumvirate from 1856 was John Hope Shaw, distinguished solicitor, town councillor and three times Mayor of Leeds. It’s a source of quiet satisfaction for SBA to know that the charity he helped create is still run by and for solicitors and their families.

Thanks to the generosity of thousands of lawyers, law firms and local law societies, SBA is in an excellent position to help current and former colleagues. If you know of someone who may be finding it hard to cope, please mention SBA. If we can help, we will.

To find out more about SBA The Solicitors’ Charity, visit www.sba.org.uk, telephone 020 8675 6440 or email us on sec@sba.org.uk.

LawCare’s free confidential helpline is 0800 279 6888. See www.lawcare.org.uk for further details.

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