Like most people (or at least what most people write in their UCAS applications), I was drawn to law by a desire to remedy social injustice. As I learnt more and more about human rights law through my university studies and various work placements, I realised that this area was the only possible route for me. It’s no surprise that when the opportunity to become the student representative for Amicus-ALJ appeared, I couldn’t wait to get involved!
Amicus-ALJ is a legal charity that works towards providing legal representation to prisoners who have been sentenced to capital punishment in the United States (US); the organisation does not campaign for legal change, but instead works on the frontline by giving legal aid to actively help prisoners on death row. Just like lawyers specialising in criminal law in the UK, US capital defence lawyers are underpaid and overworked. Mistakes can be made, meaning that people can die due to receiving a lower standard of legal representation than they deserve.
One of the more amazing opportunities that Amicus offers in order to ensure a higher standard of representation is an internship program for budding lawyers. Every year 25-35 interns are trained and assigned work placements in the US with practising capital defenders. For interns, this means that they have the opportunity to work on real capital punishment cases which would not be done otherwise; they have the chance to save someone from injustice and ultimately the death penalty.
The work is varied, ranging from simple tasks or office work to legal research or interviewing people involved in the case and visiting the defendant. Although the work can be dull and very difficult, what matters is that it is all in aid of protecting the legal rights of the client. On top of this, the skills acquired helps interns immeasurably with their future legal career.
So what can you do? Well, if this is an issue that interests you, students can join Amicus for the reduced price of £18 for one year: http://www.amicus-alj.org/membership.php. Members are entitled to free online access to the Amicus-ALJ journal and other member-only resources as well as reduced rates for Amicus-ALJ events and access to the Middle Temple Library.
Our first official event on-campus will be an information evening that shall take place on Thursday 8th October in A2 LASS. The session will be led by one of Amicus’ trustees, Mark George QC (Head of Chambers, Garden Court North) who will deliver a talk specifying what work Amicus is involved with and explain the opportunities for students to get involved.
Moreover, there is also a Death Penalty Training Programme organised by Amicus that takes place twice a year; for students, there is a reduced rate of £73 which includes two practical weekends in London (Friday – Sunday) and Amicus membership. Attendance at the training weekend will not only look phenomenal on your CV and show your interest in criminal law and human rights, but is also required if you are interested in the US internship. If enough people are interested, I would even be able to run this as an organised trip with a mini-bus from University Park to make travel easier and cheaper.
At the very least, you can do something amazing with your time at the University of Nottingham and follow Amicus-ALJ’s work by joining our campus Facebook group. If anything you’ve read has peeked your interest, or you’re interested about hearing more, please feel free to email me at [email protected] or alternatively drop by for a chat at my drop-in session in the LASS café between 13.00-14.00 on Friday 2nd October.