Simitie Lavaly graduated with Postgraduate Diploma in Legal Practice in 2004. After spending three years gaining work experience in the UK, she returned to Sierra Leone where her sought-after legal skills are transforming the lives of vulnerable women.
Chasing her dream
After leaving UWE in 2004, Simitie gained a broad perspective of the legal industry working as a Caseworker for The Law Society, investigating complaints made about against solicitors in almost every field of law.
Two years later, Simitie left her job to build on the skills she had gained at UWE. ‘I decided I wanted to return to Sierra Leone and pursue my dream of becoming a qualified lawyer, probably one of my proudest personal achievements to date’.
Climbing the legal ladder
And Simitie is right to be proud. Since qualifying as a lawyer, her legal career has gone from strength to strength. In 2008, she took up a position as a Legal Intern at the Special Court for Sierra Leone – mandated to try those who bear the greatest responsibility for serious violations of international humanitarian law and Sierra Leonean law committed in Sierra Leone since 30 November 1996. During this time she provided support for senior trial lawyers in the Charles Taylor Trial.
After her internship, Simitie took the natural next step in her legal career, completing her Pupillage with a top law firm in Sierra Leone. During this time, she provided legal advice, assistance and representation to clients in criminal and civil matters in the Magistrates Court and High Court.
Simitie now works as a Legal Officer for AdvocAid – a charitable organisation which strengthens access to justice, education and reintegration for female prisoners in Sierra Leone. Often, those she works to help are unable to afford legal representation and are detained in maximum-security for long periods of time.
"I am very grateful to have been able to assist so many female prisoners" says Simitie. “I have already represented three women and a man who were previously on death row, and have since been released. Several others who were facing murder charges have had their charges reduced to manslaughter and were subsequently released". However, despite the good work being done by AdvocAid, the organisation is facing funding problems and it is currently seeking individuals and organisations to donate towards such a worthy cause.
Reaching out to support vulnerable women is evidently something close to her heart. Simitie spends her spare time helping to run another woman’s organisation, providing legal aid to women and children affected by sexual and gender-based violence.