Our TAP Team recently carried out their first PLE session to a community group in the North of Glasgow. This has been a long time in the making, with lots of hard work, research and preparation going in to the session.
This month we heard news of 3 of our TAP clients being granted status. Two of these cases have run since 2018, with numerous advisors working on them in the 5 years since we took them on. This is a great result for our clients…
We recently represented in a Housing Tribunal case where the students Scott and Jasleen were successful in obtaining a wrongful termination order and an award of £2,000 for their client.
Of the seven new Solicitor Advocates appointed by the Law Society this year, three are Clinic Alumni: Paman Singh, Jillian Merchant and Patrick Campbell Corcoran. Congratulations to each of them for this achievement, and thank you for your contribution to the law clinic!
In addition to all the hard work out advisors have been putting in throughout December, between clinic work and exams, we have also managed to fit in some fun! We hosted a Christmas Tree decorating social at the end of November, and rounded off the year with a Christmas Office Party and Quiz!
This month we were lucky enough to be shortlisted for two events: The GlasgowTimes Community Champion Awards (Public Service Award) and the Herald Law Awards of Scotland (Pro Bono Award). On the 15th of November, our Student Director team attended the Herald LawAwards evening, and we are delighted to share that we won!
Lauren Weetman and Jess Jayan, student advisors, were successful in their first SSSC Fitness to Practice hearing where they succeeded in achieving an excellent outcome for their client with a finding that there was no impairment in their Fitness to Practice.
We received terrific feedback from one of our clients who donated generously to the Clinic as a gesture of gratitude for the work of the students involved who were Casey Wilson, Emily Galagher and Gordon Gow.
“thank you for everything you have done for me, I could not have achieved this outcome without your assistance, you all have been very professional and will do great in whatever you go on to do, The service that the law clinic offered me was outstanding” .
Annual General Meeting
We reviewed our Annual Report, celebrated achievements from the past year, and celebrated the dedication and successes of our advisors, as well as welcoming our newly graduated Student Advisors.
Each and every contribution culminates in the successes and statistics contained in our annual report, so thank you to everyone that has contributed to Clinic Work over the past year!
Pro Bono Week
To celebrate Pro Bono Week we published a number of articles by our advisors and supervisors on the impact of our work and the importance of pro bono more generally. You can read the articles below: https://www.lawclinic.org.uk/news
We also had a number of our advisors travel down to London for the Probonoskills.com event hosted by Akin, Gump Strauss, Hauer & Feld LLP. The event included a talk by Dame Elizabeth Gardner KC (Hon) on the impact of pro bono on parliament, the legal profession and the public at large. You can read more about it in our article: https://www.lawclinic.org.uk/updates/pro-bono-week-london-trip
To wrap up our Pro Bono Week celebrations, one of our Student Advisors, who also acts as one of two of our PBS Student Ambassadors, Anna Gren, was invited to join the panel at the SYLA x PBS Pro Bono Week Event in Edinburgh, hosted by CMS. Anna was joined on the panel by a trainee solicitor, and an Advocate, Emma Boffey, who also happens to be Strathclyde Law Clinic Alumni! You can read more about this event in the following article: https://www.lawclinic.org.uk/updates/advisor-news-syla-x-probonoskills-com-panel
In October, we welcomed 45 new advisors to the law clinic. Over four sessions, the cohort was given an overview of essential process, procedure, skills and resources used in the clinic, everyday. These sessions included:
Legal Letter Writing
We also welcomed Professor David McQuoid-Mason to the clinic where he held a Street Law Workshop and shared his experience and knowledge with some of our students.
In addition, we had the opportunity to attend a number of Employment Law Training Sessions with McGrade & Co on harrasment and whistleblowing as well as Employment Law and teamwork sessions from our Supervisors. We are looking forward to welcoming Ben Christman, solicitor at the LSA, to the Clinic at the end of the month to provide a training session on Housing Law
Law School Prizegiving
A number of our advisors received a prize at this year’s event, including our Student Directors, Paige and Cara, who were awarded the Robson Prize for Outstanding Contribution to the Law School. Advisors who received an award include:
Shadow Opportunity – Eva Ronnie
One of our supporters, Solicitor Margot Nicol, kindly offered one of our students the opportunity to shadow her at Glasgow Sheriff court. This is what she had to say about the experience:-
“I was recently given the opportunity to shadow Margot Nicol, a sole practitioner in Stranraer, at the Sheriff court in Glasgow for a criminal trial. Due to the nature of the case, this was not open to the public , so permission was granted by the Sheriff to allow me to be in the courtroom for the trial. This was an invaluable experience, allowing me to witness first hand the work of both Margot and the procurator fiscal during the proceedings and to observe the interactions between all those working in court throughout the stages of the trial. Discussing the steps Margot has taken to reach this point in her career was also very interesting. I would encourage anyone interested in the court system to visit their local court.”
Research Internship – Anthony Kelly
Anthony Kelly, one of our experienced advisors, was successful in gaining a research internship with the Law School during the summer.
“This summer, I had a research internship with the University of Strathclyde, completing a research poster entitled: “Miscarriages of Justice: the Role of the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (’SCCRC’) and the High Court of Justiciary. My research examined appeals against conviction on reference from the SCCRC. I’m so pleased that my final presentation has recently been awarded two prizes: The Research Interns @ Strathclyde Public Vote Award and the Principal’s Award.”
Black History Month
October was Black History Month, to recognise this, our EDI Officer, Corey Beaton, shared some thoughts on what the month means:
“Black History Month is a time to honour the achievements, contributions, and resilience of Scotland’s Black community. We should all be using this month to educate ourselves, celebrate diversity, and amplify Black voices and talents. Celebrating Black history is not limited to one month – it’s a year-round commitment.”
Global Day of Action for Climate Justice
As a Law Clinic who has signed the Climate Pledge, this year for Global Day of Action we asked our advisors to share their thoughts on the Climate Crisis and this year’s theme of a right to a healthy environment.
As a law clinic, we ask you to appreciate and respect the environment around you to help yourself, others, and future generations achieve a healthy environment.
You can watch the video by following the below link:
16 Days of Activism for Gender-Based Violence Campaign
25th November was International day for the Elimination of Violence against women, and it also marked the beginning of the 16 days of Activism. The 16 days of Activism against Gender Based violence is a global campaign that aims to ends violence against women and girls. The campaign calls for collective action to prevent and respond to gender- based violence. The campaign will finish on 10th December – Human Rights Day.
To mark the campaign, the SWRC held a stand in Strathclyde Union in the hope of raising awareness of the 16 days of Activism and the work that the SWRC carry out. Some of our advisors also participated in the Fight for the Night on 29th November 2023. This is an organised march through Glasgow streets to demand action to make streets safer and show solidarity with survivors of rape and sexual assault.
Last Tuesday, I travelled through to the CMS office in Edinburgh to speak on behalf of the Clinic and ProBonoSkills.com (PBS) about the Pro Bono work I am involved in. This event was coordinated by the Scottish Young Lawyers Association in connection with Pro Bono Week 2023.
The key theme was “Changing Lives Through Pro Bono” and we discussed the importance of doing Pro Bono work in the legal field, especially with the decline of Legal Aid support.
I was joined by an advocate, Emma Boffey and trainee, Jay Elder, who also offered an interesting insight into how Pro Bono has transformed their careers.
A key takeaway from the discussion personally was a statement made by Emma. From the minute we become law students, we are highly skilled individuals with the ability to help those in less fortunate positions than ourselves. Spending a few hours a week might not mean much to us, but for many of our clients, it means the world. This really reinforced the positive impact we as students can have on the wider community and the importance of offering the services we do at the Clinic.
In an ideal world, Pro Bono work would not exist due to sufficient funding in the legal sector. However, this is not the case and we as students have a real opportunity to make an impact with the work we do. It takes someone with real drive and passion to advocate for others, and this discussion emphasised the significance of getting involved.
A huge thank you to everyone involved in the event. It was a great opportunity to discuss something which I believe is fundamental in the legal field.
On the 9th of November, myself and four other advisors from the Clinic travelled down to London for a Pro Bono Week event hosted by Probonoskills.com at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, featuring a talk from Dame Elizabeth Gardner KC (Hon), parliamentary counsel.
The event offered a great insight into the work law clinics are doing across the country as well as the work practising solicitors and Parliament are doing to promote access to justice. Dame Elizabeth Gardiner stressed the importance of Pro Bono work in light of funding being cut for Legal Aid across the country, as those undertaking this work are a key element of the legal profession. Without law clinics and solicitors offering Pro Bono work, many clients would be left unrepresented, unheard and unable to move forward. Therefore, it is paramount that the work we do is accessible and digestible for all clients.
Another key element of the discussion around Pro Bono work was how we define success. As quoted “don’t measure your success in wins and losses, but in the access to justice you are providing for your clients.” As advisors, it is important to remember that a win for a client may not always be a monetary value, but the feeling of being valued and listened to. Many clients will have nowhere else to turn and so by listening to and empathising with clients, this can already be a small win in their mind.
Pro Bono Week 2023 was centred around how Pro Bono work changes lives. By offering free legal advice and representation to clients, we are helping to overcome the barrier in accessing justice for clients in Glasgow and the surrounding areas. As the week draws to a close, it is important to remember the impact we as advisors have on the wider community and just how needed this work is.
A big thanks to Probonoskills.com and Akin for arranging for us to attend. It was great to see all of the fantastic pro bono work going on in law clinics across the country!
“The meeting of two people is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.” Carl Jung
One of this year’s themes for pro bono week is changing lives. At Strathclyde Law Clinic, we know that people can be profoundly impacted by pro bono legal services, not just by being given legal advice, but by the simple act of someone listening to their story and taking them seriously, irrespective of their financial situation. This not only improves access to justice but, on a personal level, increases feelings of empowerment and autonomy which, as one of our alumni put it, is an important psychological effect of pro bono legal services.
However, as we have witnessed first-hand at the clinic, it is not only the recipients of advice who are impacted by this process. Those who volunteer their time to provide legal advice are also changed. At our recent event celebrating the clinic’s 20th birthday, we were overjoyed to see so many of our alumni, people who all at some point during their legal studies used their burgeoning knowledge to help someone navigate unfamiliar legal territory. Simultaneously, they did the same. They tested themselves in the legal world at a formative stage, assuming the role and duties of a lawyer whilst still a student, and in the process began to shape their future professional identity.
As those who attended the 20 year event will have heard, the law clinic was set up with the aim not only of improving access to justice but also to expose lawyers-to- be to these issues at an early stage of their career. The hope was that this would embed in them a sense of fairness and compassion, and a future commitment to pro bono as fully qualified lawyers. As our founder said at the event, it was therefore very heartening to see so many alumni continue to engage with the clinic, through participation in its supervisory committee, giving advice at our evening drop ins, and providing training and much valued support to our current student volunteers.
Law clinics would not function without its volunteers and all the hours that are dedicated not only to legal advice provision but also to the many other tasks that come with running an advice-giving organisation. While we cannot win every case, the impact this dedication has on the clients, who are at the heart of it all, is immeasurable. As one client says:
“Law clinics are fantastic institutions. The atmosphere and camaraderie is amazing, with people all helping each other and rooting for the success of their fellow students’ cases. [I came to the clinic] through unfortunate circumstances but I have met such wonderful people, and that changed my life.”
In honour of Pro Bono Week, I would like to highlight the various ways in which we can promote access to justice, beyond pro bono casework. When undertaking pro bono work, there is a crisis. You start seeing both sides of the legal profession – the side obsessed with billable hours and the side obsessed with the facilitation of access to justice. It’s a duality that keeps me up at night, as I, like most people, see the value in both. So how do we reach our material goals but also facilitate access to justice? The only answer I can come up with is using your strengths to enable empowerment instead of dependencies.
Stephen Wexler wrote an insightful article on practising law for financially and socially vulnerable people, which he refers to as “poverty law.” It’s worth noting that we all have the potential to become vulnerable at some point in our lives, and it’s important to understand that this is not a fixed state. Wexler offers solutions that go beyond traditional pro bono work and utilize a variety of skill sets. For those who are natural leaders and organizers, he suggests creating networks of resources and organizations within impoverished communities. For those with a passion for writing, creating simple and easy-to-understand legal resources is a great option. For those who enjoy teaching, demystifying the law can be incredibly helpful. Those who enjoy advocacy can train others in confrontation, while those with a nurturing instinct can foster communities.
Access to justice is something that all legal professionals can work towards, whether they are scholars, students, or solicitors. Instead of dismissing the idea of pro bono work as something that “they” do, we should take a closer look at ourselves and how we can use our unique strengths to help others gain access to justice.
I have been a student advisor at the law clinic since the first year of my Scots Law degree, and although I have little experience in casework and projects compared to my peers, I can safely say my experience has been invaluable, nonetheless.
The Law clinic perfectly encapsulates what it means to ‘change lives through pro bono’ in the work that it allows students to do. It creates a place in which those who have exhausted all means in their legal problems can feel heard after their voices have been silenced time and time again. This is what I believe is the most rewarding aspect of partaking in pro bono legal work. It is the acknowledgement of clients expressing their gratitude for finally being able to say their piece and have someone understand.
I believe it is important to understand that success in a case should not just be seen in the monetary gain or a judgement given that is in favour of your client, but more importantly in how you adhere to your client and if your advice and meetings make them feel seen.
I have experienced this in the current case I am on, as my client expressed, they were relieved to have finally been listened to and have the chance to advocate for themselves when this is normally a challenge for them.
When in a situation where you may not have the means to afford or easily access legal advice, which many of our clients are faced with, you can feel hopeless and isolated. It can make an already stressful situation more of a burden on your shoulders and this is why pro bono work is a much-needed service in our society. A society in which people with different socioeconomic backgrounds should all be able to thrive.
Pro bono work directly responds to the need for increased access to justice. A lack of access to justice is created by many factors such as the unawareness of what rights you have, the lack of awareness of legal processes and the inability to access resources. Many people also have a misconception of how time-consuming legal proceedings can be which deters them from beginning them at all. This factor tied in with legal costs makes the law inaccessible to those who cannot afford it. For example, ELP solicitors charge £250 for an initial advice meeting and a further charge of £1430 for up to 10 hours of work which is understandably a daunting amount for many. The cases we deal with in the law clinic are overwhelmingly employment cases, and so our provision of free legal advice and other assistance, allows our clients to access justice irrespective of their financial positions.
Clients almost always come in for their initial interview with the belief that they have been wronged in some way, an injustice in itself.
However, advisors can quickly discover there are many more injustices at play. This is again due to the lack of awareness of basic rights employees, tenants, homeowners and sometimes simply humans are afforded. Thus, for the law clinic to be able to provide free legal advice and representation for cases to do with employment or housing amongst others, it successfully plays its part in advancing access to justice for all.
I am so grateful to be a part of an institution that prides itself on helping the less fortunate in our communities. Not only does it provide students with transferrable skills and hands-on experience in the legal sector, but it also benefits people in ways that can give them hope and turn their lives around.
It creates a symbiotic relationship between student advisors and clients which is such an attractive aspect of pro bono work.
Pro bono legal services protect the principle that if law is subject to everyone it should be accessible to everyone.
I am just beginning my 4th year of volunteering at the University of Strathclyde Law Clinic alongside my clinical LLB, and recently, I got my very first thank you card from a client.
It was an employment case of constructive dismissal, with elements of disability discrimination, and we took the client on with a strike out hearing looming. We were able to get past the strike out hearing and then went on to get a good result for our client.
I, and two fellow co-advisors conducted a lot of prep in a short amount of time for the strike out hearing, conducted the strike out hearing, drafted applications to amend, prepared to represent at a full hearing, and worked hard in settlement negotiations. We did this all while managing our own deadlines within our university, work, and personal lives. And don’t be fooled, a lot of this work is tiring, tedious, and sometimes mundane. This is nothing short of what every other advisor in the clinic does and it makes it sound like hard work. This is because it is hard work. It takes a lot of effort and organisation, and we expect nothing in return.
Why then, do us students do it. Well, I cannot speak for everyone at the clinic, but I am sure many would join me in saying that I do it is because I love it. Beyond the practical experience it gives me, it also gives me opportunity to do something meaningful with my skills.
I think what is easy to forget is that law is pretty exclusionary. Others are not taught to navigate, understand, or apply it. Yet, it affects everyone at some point in their lives. How then can we have the privilege of being taught the skills to use it, and not offer to help someone without those skills. Yes, these skills are a solicitor’s livelihood, but they are also other people’s last lifelines.
So, even though we can expect nothing in return, there is a lot on offer – meaningfulness, sense of worth, ability to assist those in need, using your specialist skills for the good of someone else, doing something you love, and sometimes, even a thank you card.
The thank you card is something I will keep forever, the first one I have ever received from someone that I helped, I assisted in getting through a tough time in their lives. Someone that would otherwise would have been unlikely to carry on with their case without my, and my co-advisors’, skills which we are lucky enough to have.
Firstly, we would like to say a massive thank you for attending. The turnout was impressive, and the good atmosphere was infectious. It was a brilliant opportunity to come together, consider important issues, and share valued memories of the clinic. This would not have been possible without you all.
KEEP IN TOUCH
Please keep in touch with us by following us on all of our social medias..
Some supporters of the Law Clinic choose to give a donation. Donations, big and small, keep our clinic running and we would not exist without our donors! The link to our single donations can be found here (http://www.alumni.strath.ac.uk/page.aspx?pid=260). While single donations are greatly appreciated, regular donations allow us to plan for the future. If you are able to make a regular donation, big or small, to help us plan for the future, the link can be found here (https://www.alumni.strath.ac.uk/page.aspx?pid=265). The University of Strathclyde is a charitable body, registered in Scotland, registration number SCO15263.
The clinic is a fantastic community that welcomes hundreds of students throughout their university career. Many of our alumni go on to work in interesting and important roles in the legal industry. In an effort to keep our alumni connected, build our clinic community, and seek opportunities for our current student members, we are putting a call out to ask our alumni if they would be willing to offer shadowing opportunities. If this is something you would be interested in helping with, please send an email to our clinic inbox (firstname.lastname@example.org) and we will be in touch.
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