The Domestic Abuse Response Alliance (DARA) celebrated the end of its first year of operation with the addition of three new firms, (increasing the number to 10), a pool of barristers and an expanded reach outside of London.
On 1 February 2022, DARA was launched by seven leading firms to provide advocacy services to survivors of domestic abuse who are not eligible for legal aid but who cannot afford to pay for private representation, providing them with help, support and representation to the conclusion of their case.
DARA was founded by Sam Cottman, partner and Head of Pro Bono at Travers Smith, and its volunteer lawyers are supervised by leading specialist family law firm, Beck Fitzgerald, under the guidance of Jenny Beck KC (Hon). In its first year, DARA has acted for dozens of clients in Family courts across London. The impact of the service on clients has been significant:
"DARA was incredibly helpful and I was delighted with the outcome of my case. I felt supported, heard and safe with the team members, without whom I would not have been able to succeed."
"I really can’t imagine a better service or team of wonderful people to help those who are helpless and going through such a traumatic time."
"DARA made me feel as though my life and my safety mattered to the world."
DARA is administered by LawWorks and has expanded rapidly. It is proud to welcome DLA Piper, Eversheds and Akin Gump as members. Counting over 300 solicitors as well as a pool of barristers, DARA has expanded its reach outside of London to take on cases in Leeds, Manchester and Newcastle.
Now in its second year, DARA is looking to increase its client base and is delighted to welcome Refuge and Finding Legal Options for Women Survivors (FLOWS) as new referral partners alongside the National Centre for Domestic Violence (NCDV).
Sam Cottman, Partner and Head of Pro Bono at Travers Smith and Founder of DARA:
"I am very proud of the DARA firms and the great work they have done in our first year. Our collective experience has shown that the Family Courts remain an incredibly difficult forum for a survivor of domestic abuse to navigate alone. The support they receive from our lawyers can be life-changing and I have no doubt that the outcomes for our clients are significantly better as a result.
Looking ahead, I am excited by our expansion on multiple fronts in year two and look forward to continuing to develop our trauma-informed and client-focussed approach to supporting this incredibly brave group of individuals as they seek the protection they deserve."
Jenny Beck KC (Hon), Founder of Beck Fitzgerald and DARA board member:
"Nobody should live in fear of abuse yet funding cuts and the reduction in scope of legal aid have made accessing this critical legal protection 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 is a lifeline for the increasing number of survivors who would otherwise be at huge risk. The coalface work done by DARA volunteers will not only have a positive impact on the individuals accessing the service, but on a wider level the data collated by DARA can be used to inform policy development."
- Travers Smith
- Debevoise & Plimpton
- Gibson Dunn & Crutcher
- Hogan Lovells
- Latham & Watkins
- Reed Smith
- Slaughter and May
- DLA Piper
- Akin Gump
In recognition of Travers Smith's work setting up DARA, the firm was awarded the Financial Times Innovation in Responsible Business Award and ESG Initiative of the Year at the British Legal Awards.