Michelle is UK 'Legal Hero'

A LJMU ‘legal hero’ who helps people fund their way through court has been recognised by the Law Society.

School of Law lecturer Dr Michelle Waite was praised for making “a big difference to the lives of others, the local community and society”.

Michelle is one of 20 names on the Law Society's Legal Heroes 2024 shortlist announced this week. 

She has devoted much of the last 10 years of her career to working on ECF and established the Exceptional Case Funding (ECF) Clinic to help members of the public access the civil legal aid scheme. She has a 100% success rate in applications submitted to the Legal Aid Agency.

“It’s a complete surprise! I knew I’d been nominated but being shortlisted was totally unexpected and is such an honour,” Michelle said.

“I am surrounded by brilliant Law School colleagues at LJMU and have had the good fortune to work alongside talented and committed legal academics and practitioners throughout my career who all deserve recognition. I wouldn’t be here doing what I’m doing without them!

Cuts to legal aid kicked in 2012 as part of the then government’s austerity programme and Exceptional Case Funding became the only way in which thousands of people could access advice and representation for help with financial matters after divorce, immigration problems, entitlement to social security benefits and more.

Said Michelle: “I believe in the power of the law to be a force for good and as a means of protection, when needed. We are all given all sorts of rights by Parliament, but if we can’t exercise them, they may as well not exist.

“For many people the thing that makes the difference between being able to practically make use of the law to deal with a problem and protect their rights is legal aid. However, outside of immigration cases, the numbers of applications for ECF being made and the proportion of those that are granted are very small, and this situation has persisted over the decade or so since 2012.”


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