As UK Justice Week draws to a close, we reflect on how we as a firm have contributed to access to justice over the past 12 months, and how we can further strengthen the justice system and institutions that support it.

As UK Justice Week draws to a close, we reflect on how we as a firm have contributed to access to justice over the past 12 months, and how we can further strengthen the justice system and institutions that support it.

For five years we have provided pro bono support to improve the legal frameworks that protect some of the most vulnerable members of our community. Our partnership with UNICEF, which launched in 2013, continues to be a key focus for our global pro bono practice. It has raised over £1 million through corporate donations and employee fundraising, and 500 of our lawyers have provided 22,000 hours of technical child rights expertise to support UNICEF's child justice work. In 2017, we announced a renewed partnership until 2020.

Mike Penrose, the Executive Director of UNICEF UK said :

"The expertise and commitment DLA Piper have demonstrated has directly contributed to our efforts to build a safer world for some of the most vulnerable children."

Some notable moments from our partnership include our work with the Government of Bangladesh on legislation to incorporate the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) into Bangladeshi law, as well as assisting UNICEF and the Mongolian Government to conduct a review of the Mongolian Child Protection Act to ensure it is in line with the UNCRC and international best practice.

In 2013, we supported UNICEF's program advocating for 230 million unregistered children by conducting a review of nationality and citizenship legislation in 23 jurisdictions.

And last year we worked to strengthen legislation on child marriage prevention and disability discrimination, and we helped to increase institutional human rights protection systems in The Gambia, one of Africa's smallest countries, where 50 per cent of its population is under the age of 18.

In the UK, we have helped 70 children obtain British citizenship through our children's citizenship clinic in partnership with Coram Children's Legal Centre. This year we launched two new children's citizenship clinics in Birmingham and Edinburgh with Kids in Need of Defense UK (KIND). We have also partnered with the National Deaf Children's Society, helping families of deaf children to challenge refusals of Disability Living Allowance claims.

The individuals being served by our work are mostly vulnerable people who are unable to advocate for themselves effectively. They turn to pro bono support because there is no other advice or assistance available.

While pro bono must always be understood to operate as an adjunct to, and not a replacement for a properly funded legal aid system, it is essential that the private sector continues to work with civil society organizations to support vulnerable groups. As lawyers, we are in a unique position to contribute to the justice system and to the effective administration of the rule of law.

We will continue working to improve legal systems and frameworks, both internationally and domestically, so that all children have access to justice and are able to access their basic human rights.