Q&A – Kids in Need of Defense UK

Reed Smith pro bono associate Becca Naylor talks about the Kids in Need of Defense (KINoD) UK initiative.

1. You’ve been shortlisted in this year’s Excellence Awards, in the category of Excellence in Pro Bono, for your work with Kids in Need of Defense UK (KINoD UK) in collaboration with Arnold & Porter, Covington & Burling, Ropes & Gray and Shearman & Sterling. Tell us about this initiative and how Reed Smith became involved.

We partner with KINoD UK's hub at the Migrant & Refugee Children’s Legal Unit (MiCLU) to assist vulnerable clients, children and their families, by regularising their immigration status in the UK.

It’s a fantastic collaboration between KINoD, MiCLU and a number of law firms, who all dedicate their time and legal skills to assist children and their families.

KINoD are instrumental to the success of the collaboration due to MiCLU's expert knowledge and supervision of our lawyers.

2. How have Reed Smith and others been able to support children with an irregular or temporary immigration status? What kind of work do cases involve?

We prepare leave to remain applications for undocumented children. Each team comprises four to five lawyers who are expertly supervised by a solicitor from KINoD's hub at MiCLU.

The cases are time intensive and involve regular meetings with the client and their family, preparing witness statements, gathering supporting evidence, instructing expert reports and drafting legal submissions.

3. What kind of impact has the initiative already had?

More than 50 people have been granted leave to remain as a result of the work done by KINoD's MiCLU hub and pro bono lawyers.

The cases are life changing for the children and families that we help.

Lack of immigration status can severely impact families, in many cases they are destitute and cannot provide for the basic needs of their children without external help, and may not be able to access medical treatment.

Once they have status, parents are allowed to work and support their families, and children can continue with their education.

My highlight was calling a mother and her two children before Christmas to share good news about their status.

KINoD have a 100% success rate on these applications since the project began in 2017, which is testament to the high-quality work pro bono lawyers do, but also shows that these were children, who had every right to be here, but just needed help to prove it.

4. Why is pro bono work important?

Pro bono is a chance for our lawyers to use their skills to assist individuals that can’t access legal support.

Pro bono can never be a replacement for a properly funded legal aid system, but it can help make a difference to the individuals that we help.

In 2013, the scope of legal aid for immigration cases was drastically reduced meaning that only children with international protection claims are automatically eligible for free legal representation.

The work KINoD leads is critical to enable these children and their families to regularise their status.

5. What motivated Reed Smith to partner with KINoD UK?

Reed Smith has a longstanding partnership with Kids in Need of Defense in the US and we were keen to be part of their expansion to the UK.

KINoD have a fantastic supervision model that enables our commercial lawyers to feel supported throughout a case.

6. The initiative demonstrates the impact law firms can have, particularly when working together. Is collaboration between firms important for pro bono work?

Law firms are wonderfully collaborative on pro bono work. The Collaborative Plan for Pro Bono in the UK brings firms together to share ideas and set up initiatives.

KINoD is a great example of one of those partnerships – it involves firms sharing training, resources and best practice. It enables us to work more effectively to support those in need.

7. How can other firms get involved with KINoD UK?

To find out more or get involved, contact Ann Cooper.

Maximise your Law Society membership with My LS