Legal actions can sometimes be overwhelming for many. Having expert, empathetic, professional, and relatable legal consultant to assist one in the legal proceedings is the need of many people. Twanieka Alcindor is one such reputed and relatable legal consultant who assists people in their legal proceedings with her expert skills, empathy, and professionalism. Twanieka is the Manager and Consultant Barrister of the Franchise Law Firm Alcindor Law, as a part of Tuckers Solicitors. Her position involves managing a small team of solicitors, barristers, and paralegals in a busy high street firm in Brixton, London. Alcindor Law specializes in Criminal defense litigation, family law, and conveyancing, and it also assists in cross-jurisdictional matters in the Commonwealth Island of Jamaica.
Alcindor Law assists hundreds of clients each year providing high-quality legal representation and expert advocacy in a variety of legal matters. Twanieka is responsible for the training, professional development, and supervision of all fee-earners in the firm and personally supervise the case management of every single case that the firm is instructed in. Twanieka further appears as the instructed advocate in the court proceedings.
Besides, Twanieka is the Winner of Women in Law awards 2020 – Rising Star – Legal Services Innovator of the Year. She is the Nominee of Inspirational Women in Law Awards in the Inspirational Woman of the Year, Under 35 Lawyer of the Year category 2019. She is the Founder of Pro-bono law clinic ‘Lawyers in the Soup Kitchen’ since 2014 which provides free legal advice and assistance to those without access to legal resources at its weekly advice clinic.
“Slow and steady wins the race.”
Incorporating Remote Working in Legal Practice
During the pandemic Alcindor Law has experienced several challenges in providing legal expertise to its clients. Firstly, the key challenge was facilitating contact with its clients who are currently on remand in custody. Many of the prisons were ill-equipped to cope with the sudden increase in requests for remote video links to the court for clients to attend court remotely. Coupled with this came the prioritising of the available remote video slots being reserved only for court attendances in several prisons which meant that even where there was availability for a video conference with the client’s legal representatives these were not permitted. To add, many prisons simply did not have the facilities or closed the prison to all legal visits.
These challenges meant that for many months we were unable to see our clients in custody. They were unable to be properly advised in time for their hearings and Alcinder had to depend on telephone calls and sending hundreds of letters and copies of case papers to be able to take its client’s instructions and advise them.
The other challenge that the company continues to experience is that due to the high population of prisoners in the UK prisons there have been significant additional delays in case progression as many clients are not being produced at court for their hearings either in person or remotely as they are required to isolate if they display Covid-19 symptoms or anyone on their prison wing does. This means that even if a client has not himself displayed symptoms, he is unable to attend court or have a video conference with his legal representatives until the entire wing or those on his floor have isolated and returned negative COVID-19 tests.
This has particularly caused difficulties for Alcinder’s vulnerable clients and those who have been remanded in custody for the very first time. The company has sought to overcome some of these challenges by making better use of written correspondence, email to a prisoner and securing bail for its remand clients in their absence.
Ensuring Justice to Disadvantaged People
As a firm and as part of its wider community, Alcindor Law provides free pro-bono legal assistance at weekly walking/ remote sessions at the Brixton Soup Kitchen. Its pro-bono initiative contributes significantly to its community by providing legal assistance and guidance to those of limited legal resources in a variety of legal matters.
The recent legal aid cuts have resulted in an increased amount of people no longer being eligible for legal aid which both prevents and deters many from having access to justice or legal recourse. Alcindor Law attempts at not only providing legal assistance, but it also takes efforts at equipping those to whom the justice system is alien with the skills and knowledge required to help themselves with their legal problems and thereby contributes to the general legal knowledge of its community.
Alcindor Law’s community homes many socially disadvantaged people who generally view the law with a negative light due to their lack of knowledge or exposure. Through the pro-bono project Lawyers in the Soup Kitchen’s youth crime initiative, You-tube film ‘Brixton on Trial’ became the first mock-trial to be filmed in the Royal Courts of Justice and saw 30 students from the local area sit as a jury in a real-life murder trial to educate them on the impact and consequences of knife crime and further provide them access to legal professionals from backgrounds similar to their own.
Addressing the Issues of Vulnerable People
If Alcindor Law were able to bring about change for civil liberties with police actions, it would encourage the creation of a task force separate to the Independent Office for Police Conduct to address the disparity in the types of complaints against the police made by BAME individuals. Twanieka believes with statistics so high and the amount of BAME individuals that do not proceed with actions against the police due to their mistrust of the system and processes being unfair, a separate task force should be created to address these issues. This task force would go a long way to holding the police accountable when excessive or unnecessary force is used against a detainee.
Fighting Against Odds to Achieve Desired Results
The book that impacted Twanieka recently is ‘In your defense’ by Sarah Langford. Twanieka states that it is a book that inspired hope, determination and reinforced her decision to tirelessly fight against injustice. Additionally, Twanieka is influenced and impacted by her deceased Great-Grandmother ‘Rachel Alcindor’. Twanieka’s GreatGrandmother’s motto that ‘with hard work and determination one can achieve anything one puts one’s mind to’ was something that kept her motivated throughout her studies and continues to motivate her throughout her career.
The firm is named after Twanieka’s Great-Grandmother as it represents its efforts to fight against the odds to achieve the desired results. Twanieka states that it is a constant reminder that no matter where one starts in life, one can determine where one ultimately would end up. Evidence to this is Twanieka’s own personal journey from ‘Brixton to the Bar’ as a young child from a Brixton counsel estate and a single parent home who aspired to achieve, and did so, paving the way for those who were to come.
Maintaining High Levels of Diversity by Being Inclusive
Alcindor Law’s reputation as a diverse and relatable team of lawyers is something that it is very proud of. Its team consists of 80% women and 100% of its team members are from non-traditional diverse backgrounds including members of the BAME community and further those who are the first generation in their family to attend university.
Twanieka’s vision for the firm is that in the next five years, it will continue to develop its reputation for maintaining high levels of diversity throughout the firm. This will go towards changing the diversity of the profession as a whole and ensuring that the company continues to promote access to justice and careers in law to the wider society.
Alcindor Law wishes to tackle racial disparity in the criminal justice system at all levels as was highlighted by the Lammy Review (2020) which detailed that the Jury system is the only element of the Criminal justice system where defendants are treated fairly in terms of race.