DARA is an alliance of seven leading law firms who will provide pro bono legal advice and representation to survivors of domestic abuse in need of protective injunctions. The other founding member firms are: Travers Smith, Debevoise & Plimpton, Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, Hogan Lovells, Latham & Watkins, Slaughter and May.
In England and Wales, one in four women experience domestic abuse during their lifetime. Every week two women in the UK are killed by a current or former partner and three die by suicide due to domestic abuse.
DARA will represent individuals who are not eligible for legal aid but who cannot afford to pay for private representation, providing them with help, support and representation from the outset to the conclusion of the case
DARA has been founded by Sam Cottman, Director of Pro Bono at Travers Smith. Sam has been providing legal support to survivors of domestic abuse for over a decade. In 2020, he launched the Domestic Violence Advocacy Unit at Travers Smith which has provided advocacy services to survivors of domestic abuse, in the same way that DARA will now do at scale.
Rebecca Naylor, Reed Smith’s head of pro bono across EMEA, said: “We’re incredibly proud to be a part of this hugely important and much-needed alliance that will provide support to survivors of domestic abuse who would otherwise slip through the gap, unable to access or afford legal guidance.”
DARA will be one of LawWorks' secondary specialisation projects and will take referrals from the National Centre for Domestic Violence (NCDV). The alliance will be supervised by leading specialist family law firm, Beck Fitzgerald, under the guidance of Jenny Beck QC (Hon). Jenny is the co-founder of Beck Fitzgerald and an award-winning family lawyer committed to accessible justice and the rights of the individual. She is a highly regarded specialist in domestic abuse law.
Sam Cottman, director of Pro Bono at Travers Smith and founder of DARA, said: "For so many survivors of domestic abuse, legal protection is out of reach. That may be due to a lack of funding, an overly complex legal system or, often, the terrifying prospect of facing their abuser in court. Many of these individuals have no choice but to return to life-threatening relationships.
“At Travers Smith, we have committed hundreds of hours to assembling DARA so we can work in tandem with the brilliant founding member firms to help as many survivors as possible. I am hugely grateful to each of those firms, to NCDV and LawWorks for being so critical to putting this together and to Jenny Beck QC and her firm for providing the specialist family law supervision.
“I believe DARA is the largest pro bono advocacy service for survivors of domestic abuse ever assembled. I am delighted to see it go live and look forward to driving its growth over the years to come."
Jenny Beck QC (Hon), founder of Beck Fitzgerald and DARA board member, said: "Nobody should live in fear of abuse yet cuts to legal aid have made accessing legal protection orders impossible for many. The solution needs to be a properly funded education, prevention and protection system but we are some considerable way from that. DARA provides an invaluable resource to help survivors who would otherwise be at huge risk."
Alison Lamb, chief executive of RCJ Advice, added: “Our national domestic abuse legal advice service, FLOWS (Finding Legal Options for Women Survivors) provides an invaluable service with our CourtNav FL401 helping to secure protection orders for 10,000 women per year and linking survivors with domestic abuse legal aid providers across England & Wales. Many women find themselves ineligible for legal aid but unable to afford private representation. FLOWS provides help and support to these women, and representation in some cases, and we welcome the commitment DARA makes to providing representation for survivors, as it is much needed."
For more information visit www.daraproject.org.
LawWorks is a charity that promotes, supports and facilitates pro bono legal services that extend access to the law for individuals and communities in need and the organisations that assist them.
About Reed Smith
Reed Smith is a dynamic international law firm dedicated to helping clients move their businesses forward. With an inclusive culture and innovative mindset, we deliver smarter, more creative legal services that drive better outcomes for our clients. Our deep industry knowledge, long-standing relationships and collaborative structure make us the go-to partner for complex disputes, transactions, and regulatory matters. Now celebrating more than 140 years of service, our firm spans 30 offices with 3,000 people, including 1,700 lawyers.
For more information, please visit www.reedsmith.com.