The founder of an initiative which has turned Suffolk from a ‘legal aid desert’ into an area that offers an enviable range of advice and representation for those unable to finance a lawyer has just been recognised at a countrywide awards event.
Audrey Ludwig, director of legal services at the Suffolk Law Centre (SLC), has won the prestigious, national Law Centres Network Excellence Award for Outstanding Contribution by an Individual.
The award ceremony took place during the annual Law Centres Network conference, held in Bristol at the end of last week.
The Law Centres Network is the national body representing local law centres offering free legal support which has become increasingly essential in recent years at a time when most Legal Aid funding has been withdrawn.
The SLC, which is part of the Ipswich & Suffolk Council for Racial Equality (ISCRE) family of organisations, provides legal advice to some of the county’s poorest and most vulnerable residents.
Since it was founded in spring 2018, after a successful initial fundraising campaign, the SLC has become a significant source of free, accessible legal advice and assistance for Suffolk, and where viable, across East Anglia, by empowering the people of Suffolk to understand and assert their legal rights.
Audrey’s citation demonstrates her key role in both setting up SLC and once achieved then driving it towards financial security, such that it has been able to expand it services to include Housing Legal Aid.
It reads: “Audrey has worked for over 13 years to build free and accessible legal advice services in Suffolk. At ISCRE she developed a discrimination casework service and a weekly LawWorks pro bono advice clinic. Audrey saw that the need would just get bigger, and she started to campaign for Suffolk to have its own Law Centre.
“After six years of lobbying, persuading, networking and profile raising (as well as continuing as our senior discrimination lawyer to support a stream of clients in need of discrimination advice and casework, and a team in need of supervision, support and a weekly supply of cake), Audrey steered Suffolk Law Centre to our launch.”
Since then Audrey has been at the forefront of securing new grant monies, including from the Legal Education Foundation, the Tudor Trust and Therium Access, which is part of Therium Group Holdings Limited to support specific SLC initiatives.
Audrey said: “It’s been quite a struggle, but every bit a worthwhile one, to both set up and then grow SLC into the vital legal lifeline that it is today.
“I’m delighted to receive this award, not on my own behalf, but in recognition of the extraordinary team of lawyers and community partners who have ensured that what was once a legal desert is now blooming with legal advice and representation for those who so desperately need it.”
Hamil Clarke chair of Suffolk Law Centre’s trustees added: “Audrey is a Suffolk gem. She is both a visionary and a very effective campaigner as is so clearly seen by the range of services now being offered by SLC. That Suffolk is no longer at the bottom of the Legal Aid league table is due this legal justice warrior.”