Criminal psychology & trauma-informed practice: a three-dimensional relationship

By Corey Beaton, Student Advisor and EDI Officer

Over the course of our recent summer break, I undertook a Diploma in Criminal Psychology through the online Centre of Excellence.  While one would think that eight months of full-time studying for an LLB (Graduate Entry) degree would beget a desire for a peaceful summer break spent on a beach somewhere, I have always worked under the shared assumption that empty hands make idle minds, and so I thought that I would put both to good use!

Criminal psychology is not a subject which I happened to stumble across one day.  I work part-time for a mental health service, Safe Harbour Inverclyde, which supports those in our community who are facing mental health issues or have suffered a past physical, mental, or sexual trauma.  In particular, working with clients who have presented the latter issues has led to us supporting them through the criminal justice system, including the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry in one client’s case.

Our clients’ experiences of the Scottish criminal justice system were certainly not positive ones – delays in trial dates being fixed, poor communication between them and the other services involved, and the inevitably brutal cross-examination by the defence agents all fed into their dissatisfaction and exacerbated their mental and physical health issues, with many of whom candidly sharing their experiences with the Lord Advocate for Scotland Dorothy Bain KC and the Solicitor General Ruth Charteris KC when they visited the service, last August.

Thankfully, we are now seeing sector-wide shift towards more trauma-informed approaches to supporting victims and witnesses of crime.  Indeed, COPFS’ recent establishment of a pilot programme in domestic abuse cases heard in the summary Sheriff Courts, with a view to ensuring – among other outcomes – greater interaction between the prosecutor and the victim-survivor, has already yielded largely positive results, with 94% of reports proceeding to court.  Further proposals as outlined in Lady Dorrian’s Sexual Offences Review, such as taking evidence on commission, have also proven effective in these types of cases, with the appropriate next steps currently being considered by the Scottish Courts & Tribunal Service and the Scottish Parliament.

One such proposal includes the pilot of so-called “juryless trials” in sexual offence cases, and while it is an initiative which is considered to be controversial among many across the profession, it is important to take stock of where we currently are in terms of the prosecution of sexual offences cases:

We learned last week that, while the number of sexual assault cases had decreased by 5% in 2022-23, the number of reports of rape and attempted rape had increased by 5% during that same time; when held against the fact that the waiting time for a solemn case to be called in the High Court is almost fifty weeks, it evidently continues to be the case that justice delayed is ultimately justice denied.

When faced with the prospects of an ordeal which only serves to retraumatise them, many of us can only imagine the courage that it must take for a victim-survivor to come forward, let alone acknowledge what happened to them in the first place. The very least we can do, then, in the words of Judith Herman, is “simply to ask survivors what would make things right – or as right as possible – for them,” for theirs are the voices which should matter most in this debate.

And while this is my position in respect of victim-survivors, we should not forget about those who are alleged to have committed other types of offences under Scots law.  I say this not solely for the purpose of providing balance to this piece, but to accord with one of the tenets of the rule of law, that the law is administered and applied blindly to cases such as, among others, the recent case of HMA v Ryan McCabe in which the criminal justice social work report highlighted the prevalence of inequality, deprivation, and adverse childhood experiences (ACES) throughout the life of the accused.

I say this because psychologists like Freud, Bowlby, and Haward have all promoted their respective theories as to why some people choose to commit crimes, citing reasons such as upbringing and learned behaviours as two key contributing factors to this.  We should not forget how malleable and impressionable we all were during the formative years of our cognitive development, so nor should we simply discount these adverse experiences. Instead, a case should be heard in as impartial and holistic a way as possible to achieve this equity among the parties.

Looking ahead, insofar as the proposed Victims, Witnesses and Justice Reform Bill is concerned, its contents ought to be met and debated on their merits alone.  The debate on its contents thus far has been fractious and disappointing to say the least.  As those who either have been or are about to become immersed in this field of law, we surely ought to be able to offer more to this debate than platitudes and ill-informed assertions.

To close by echoing the words of the Lord Advocate that she shared with the Criminal Justice Sub-Committee of the Scottish Parliament almost two years ago, the nexus of criminal prosecution is no longer a two-dimensional relationship between the Crown and the defence, but rather a three-dimensional one involving the Crown, defence, and the victim-survivor who came forward with their report in the first instance, all of whom share an involvement and varying experiences which we should bear in mind as we work towards a more equitable, trauma-informed, and fair justice system in Scotland.

SSSC Resources: Update

This summer the Law Clinic was very fortunate to have received a Strathclyde University Alumni fund grant to allow us to employ a student intern over the summer to develop accessible resources for workers regulated by the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) undergoing Fitness to Practice proceedings. Many low paid workers cannot afford a solicitor and cannot obtain legal aid. The Law Clinic aims to plug that gap in legal service provision and creating online resources is one way of enabling workers in that situation to navigate the process.

We spoke to the two students who worked on this project about their experience. They are in the final stages of completing the resources and hope to have them posted online soon. Keep an eye out for further updates when they are on our website.

 

Fiona Rennie

I have worked on several SSSC cases at the Law Clinic and each one has highlighted to me the level of unmet legal need in this area. SSSC proceedings can have a huge impact on a person’s employment and wellbeing and it can be extremely daunting for a worker to navigate the process and not be represented. Unfortunately, we cannot take on all the SSSC clients who ask for our help, I hope that these online resources will help those who are unrepresented to feel slightly more prepared when dealing with SSSC proceedings. 

Scott and I started by identifying the topics which we wanted to cover. We then conducted individual research on the topics, referring to the SSSC factsheets, decisions guidance and the Fitness to Practice Rules. Our aim was to make the resources as accessible as possible but it can be tricky trying to distill a complex process. We tried to do this by avoiding using jargon and breaking the process down into separate slideshows to make each topic ‘bitesize’. We also referred to the Law Clinic’s employment law resources (you can find these resources here: https://www.lawclinic.org.uk/employment-law-resources) to help us format and structure the information. Alongside creating these resources, I have also been working on a SSSC case. This has helped to show me which areas to focus on in our resources. 

It has been really interesting working on this project and I have enjoyed having the opportunity to contribute to the Law Clinic’s overarching aim of promoting access to justice. I have gained an in-depth understanding of SSSC processes and I hope that this will stand me in good stead for any casework I do with SSSC clients at the Law Clinic in future. 

Scott Gillanders

It has been a great opportunity to work on SSSC resources, which can be used not just for work within the Clinic, but by anyone who is involved with the SSSC. Whilst working on developing these resources, it became clear that there is a lack of proper information out there for those who are seeking it.

We have put a real focus on ensuring that our resources are easy to access and digest, whilst simultaneously containing all the information that is relevant to each topic.

We got the chance to speak to a solicitor who specialises in representing workers at SSSC hearings, who provided valuable insight into the process and practical application of the regulations. I hope that these resources can make a difference to our work in the Clinic, and also to those who are seeking reliable information regarding any issues they have encountered during the course of their registration at the SSSC.

European Day of Languages: How Learning a Language Alongside Law has Made Me a Better Student Advisor

By Abbie Clark

Taking the decision to study a language alongside my LLB is one which I have had a complicated relationship with. It has allowed me to take on exciting experiences: from my first solo adventure to participate in a 2-week summer school in Aix-en-Provence this June, or my year abroad which I will embark on next September. And at times, I have been relieved that I can break up hours of reading cases and statute with grammar exercises or light-hearted activities, while still ticking off my to-do list. But other times I have felt that I had burdened myself with an impossible task that I could not achieve alongside pursuing a career in law – learning another language. But in truth, studying French has only complimented my legal studies, and enriched my life more widely. Furthermore, I feel it has even made me a better student advisor in my work at the law clinic. Here’s how…

When learning another language there are five core skills that you are examined on: written comprehension; oral comprehension; written expression; oral expression; and, grammar. All five are essential skills in law, and in clinic work. In our initial interview, we are required to speak to our client and listen to what they have to say, extracting the relative facts, while remaining compassionate and empathetic. This requires strong oral comprehension and expression skills. We then must read relevant legal documents (which I found at first to feel as foreign as my French texts) requiring strong written comprehension skills. Then, we must articulate the relevant law in a clear, concise, and comprehensive way, utilising grammar to ensure clarity, to advise the client of their position. Undoubtedly, the skills we learn in languages are essential to even the simplest tasks in any legal case. But how does improving these skills in another language enrich our ability as advisors?

Well firstly, we have competence in a different language. Whilst obvious that the biggest asset of language learning is knowing another language, its impacts cannot be understated. Whether expanding our pool of potential clients or wider network, or enabling clients to express themselves in their own language, there are certainly circumstances in which speaking another language promotes the interests of the clinic community. On an individual basis, we have a unique perspective on the effectiveness of the legal system by being able to compare and contrast with that of our chosen language. When it comes to French, I have even found that my language skills have enabled me to translate common legal phrases and decode old legal texts with my expanded knowledge of Latin-based language.

Secondly, our language skills help us understand areas of the law that we have not yet learned. We are accustomed to reading between the lines. We can use clues such as context, neighbouring words, suffixes or prefixes to find the unknown meaning of a word. Even words that are untranslatable. We are familiar with finding and grasping abstract concepts. So, when it comes to law, which is another language in and of itself, we can transfer these skills to understanding legal concepts that are unknown to us. To feel comfortable in grey areas, and be able to express them.

Thirdly, being familiar with the inability to fully express yourself results in the development of non-verbal communication skills. Many of my conversations with French speakers have relied heavily (if not solely) on body language and filler words. As such, I have learned to read people from their hand gestures, lips, facial expression and body language. This has allowed me to better read individuals; to identify when my client is struggling to express themselves, or when the other side has divulged more than intended. And resultantly, I can take this information and provide better client service.

Finally, learning other cultures and ways of life enables you to have a deeper understanding of humanity and deeper empathy. Language learning promotes cross-cultural communication and broadens your horizons by meeting people from all different cultures. Ultimately, you learn quickly that we are all more similar than some believe. Deepening your appreciation for humanity expands your empathy beyond measure, and in turn, makes it that much easier to do the work of a student advisor. Empathy is the catalyst for impactful pro bono work, which in my opinion, necessitates cross-cultural relationships.

 

Some photographs from my time in Aix-en-Provence this summer!

20th Anniversary: Final Words

Our 20th Anniversary Event took place last night on-campus. It was well attended by advisors old and new, solicitors, advocates, members of the legal and third sectors, and other friends. We celebrated our achievements, reflected on our challenges, and took account of the current Access to Justice landscape in Scotland. With speakers discussing issues in Employment, Immigration and SSSC sectors, we had a fascinating overview of new developments in the law, and the, oftentimes, harsh realities for those navigating the justice system.

We would like to take one last opportunity to thank all of the speakers, who sacrificed their precious time to have that conversation. We would also like to thank our members and staff who worked hard to organise the event. And most of all, we would like to thank all of you, whether you managed to attend the event or were with us in spirit, for your continued support of the Clinic. Without our friends, supporters and volunteers, we would simply not be able to provide the services we do for our clients.

To round up our celebrations, a final word from our Clinic Director, Kathleen Laverty:

“I find it hard to believe that the Law Clinic turns 20 this year. I joined the team in 2006, initially on a very part time basis, and I am glad to say it has been a very rewarding and satisfying experience.  It has changed immeasurably since it’s infancy while holding tight to it’s founding principles so clearly established by its founder Donald Nicolson in 2003. We are indebted to him for having the courage to establish the Clinic, the first of it’s kind in Scotland, and for giving it such strong foundations on which we have continued to build.

The most inspiring thing about the Clinic are the volunteer students and solicitors who give so much to improve access to justice. Undoubtedly students gain invaluable skills and experience which always stands them in good stead no matter what career they end up pursuing but it never ceases to amaze me how much they are prepared to give to ensure their clients voice is heard in whatever legal process they are undergoing. They are frequently prepared to go out with their comfort zone facing many demanding and challenging situations and they do so with such courage and tenacity that we cannot fail to be inspired. I feel very proud of our students for all the work they do in the Clinic – from the exciting to the mundane. All of this is done with a commitment and drive to improve access to justice.

The other joy about working in the Clinic are the incredible people I have worked alongside. I have had fantastic colleagues throughout my time in the Clinic with whom I have shared many highs and some lows, from and with whom I have learned so much, and whose enthusiasm is uplifting and infectious. It continues to feel like a dynamic and forward looking organisation which will continue to thrive in future years. 

We owe many thanks to many people for the continued success of the Clinic not least to the clients who put their faith in us to advise and represent to the best of our ability. Although we will be faced with continuing problems in access to justice in the coming years I am very confident that the Clinic will continue to rise to those challenges and to do its utmost to plug the gaps in the provision of free legal advice for many years to come.”

 

20th Anniversary: An Interview with Michael Ballantyne

When were you in the clinic?

2015-2018

What was your role there?

I was a student advisor, including two paid summer student posts, an admin assistant helping our great Diane, and a research intern, supervised by the director of the clinical LLB, Dr Rhonda Wheate.

What are you up to now?

After enjoying and running employment cases at the clinic, (spoiler) I’m an employment solicitor. I work for a boutique UK firm and specialise in whistleblowing and discrimination claims. I’m also a tutor on the undergraduate LLB at the University of Edinburgh.

Why do you think the clinic is important?

The clinic is an invaluable service in Glasgow, aiding social mobility, bridging student learning and importantly improving access to justice. After 20 years, and with the recent cost of living, the demand for affordable legal services has only went up, and the clinic supplies just that.

What was your favorite memory of the clinic?

Whilst the clinic is best known amongst alumni for collegiality and practicability, for me I would have to say it’s the supervision – it’s top tier. Upon reflection, the skills I developed (but didn’t even think about when I was in the clinic) have stuck with me. For example, a neat chronology within an ET1 paper apart, brevity within my legal analysis, and time management – I still don’t like the 3-month time limit in employment claims! Outside the clinic rooms I enjoyed taking part in the Strathclyde/Miami clinics, ceilidh dancing and disseminating my research project focused on access to justice.

What was your most nerve wracking moment?

Picture it, we’re studying ethics and justice, unpacking the deep-rooted issues within the profession and learning about overzealous advocacy when I receive a pre-PH call from a Respondent solicitor and a call from my client on the same day. I’m met with overly masculine, classist, harsh words from the solicitor and details of trauma from my client. My rose-coloured glasses came off, and I quickly realised there was nothing I could meaningfully add to this profession, and I wanted out. It sounds daft now, but looking back as a fresh student, I really couldn’t leave the work at the door, and as a solicitor, I really try to not take the work home with me.

Full credit must go to Rhonda for pulling me out of that spiral. She was validating, reassuring and inspiring – so much so I later became a tutor.

Any birthday message for the clinic?

How is it 20 years??? It certainly isn’t lost on this working-class kid how inspiring the clinic team are. Throughout my time at the clinic I experienced opportunities that simply wouldn’t have been available to me, so for any incoming students with similar concerns – please sign up for the clinic! I can’t wait to see everyone at the 20th anniversary 😊.

We are hosting an event on campus to celebrate our 20th Anniversary on the 21st September 2023. This will provide an opportunity for past and present advisors and friends of the clinic to come together and discuss the issues facing access to justice in our main practice areas: employment, regulation of social service workers and immigration. You can sign-up via the link below:

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/strathclyde-law-clinic-20-year-anniversary-improving-access-to-justice-tickets-660477244217?aff=oddtdtcreator

20th Anniversary: An Interview with Charlene Tannock

When were you in the clinic?

I have been a member of the Strathclyde Law Clinic since my second-year undergrad, I was a student advisor, then worked on the online projects and eventually ended up as an IAC advisor.

What are you doing now?

Just about to move into a NQ position with DAC Beachcroft in October. I’ll be joining their Litigation team, so I am very excited to get started and stuck into the variety of new work I’ll get exposed to.

When did you first start volunteering for the IACS?

I started volunteering with the IAC as a first-year trainee solicitor. This will be approaching my 3rd year as an IAC advisor.

What motivated you to volunteer?

My previous life before law heavily involved working with communities who really struggled to access justice and credible legal advice so that was a real driver for me getting involved in the clinic. I genuinely believe that people should not be disadvantaged because they cannot access suitable legal advice or don’t know how to source it.

What’s the best bit about being involved in the IACs?

Being in a position to actually help people and make a real difference. Meeting the various clients and seeing how the advice you’ve provided will impact them and has impacted them if they return.

Another real benefit for me is helping the students, being able to give the students advice on how to approach problems and involving them in the advice process.

And the worst?!

It is unavoidable but delivering disappointing news. Sometimes the resources are just so stretched that the Clinic cannot help and there are times when the client leaves their problem to a point where you actually cannot help them. Communicating that to the clients can be difficult and it can feel so frustrating because you want to help but can’t.

What was your most nerve-wracking moment in the clinic?

Having a challenging client who just didn’t want to hear the advice, was not prepared to accept the advice, and became increasingly rude. Never underestimate the power of telling someone no, as much as you try and help, sometimes the answer is just no, and it was a good learning experience for me dealing with a difficult client and being able to deescalate the situation with the help of the students.

What was the most valuable thing you learned from being in the clinic?

To someone with no other option, the clinic is a lifeline so take it seriously, prepare and give that person your undivided attention. The clinic makes you a better lawyer, it teaches you to think on your feet and approach situations from different perspectives while also being able to teach the students. I didn’t have that opportunity when I was a student so it is really important to me to involve the students where I can and show them how to approach the various problems that arise at the IAC.

Any special message for Law Clinic’s 20th birthday?

To the clinic – Keep up the phenomenal work and continue to grow. The service is an institutional lifeline for the West of Scotland that attracts clients from all over the country and it can only continue to assist those people with the support of the students, the solicitors, the funders, and the bones of the clinic – the back-office support staff.

To Strathclyde Law / Diploma Students – join the clinic, get involved, you’ll meet great people, you’ll learn about the law in a practical environment, and you’ll actually get to help people. It’s a winner winner!

We are hosting an event on campus to celebrate our 20th Anniversary on the 21st September 2023. This will provide an opportunity for past and present advisors and friends of the clinic to come together and discuss the issues facing access to justice in our main practice areas: employment, regulation of social service workers and immigration. You can sign-up via the link below:

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/strathclyde-law-clinic-20-year-anniversary-improving-access-to-justice-tickets-660477244217?aff=oddtdtcreator

Summer Students 2023

Each summer, we welcome a small number of student advisors to complete 12 weeks paid work as ‘Summer Students’, plugging the gap in our services left by our advisors spreading across the globe for home, travel and other opportunities over summer. Now we are at the end of this period, some of our summer students have taken the time to reflect on their time in the role, and share their experiences with you all, our clinic community.

 

What kind of tasks are involved in the role?

Rahmah Aslan

In the summer role, tasks varied from day to day and I was working between Immigration, Housing, Employment, SSSC and Consumer cases. The workload increased in the Summer Student Advisor role but it is definitely worth the challenge as I have developed my knowledge further in the legal field as well as improved my skills. At the end of this role, I had been assigned 10 new cases at around the same time which was quite demanding but manageable.

My tasks included speaking to clients on the phone, responding to emails from other parties, preparing bundles and attending tribunal case management discussions and hearings, meeting with clients, planning the Asylum project for the year, researching legal issues and supporting other student advisors. Those tasks are very similar during the year being the difference that you have more opportunities to work on them during the summer.

Any Highlights?

Gordon Gow

I had been (and still am) working on an employment discrimination case.  This brought about my first opportunity to attend a preliminary hearing case management discussion at the Employment Tribunal.  Quite nerve-racking, as it turns out, as I was lead representation without having attended a PH before.  However, with a kind judge and fair degree over over-preparedness on my part, all went as planned – phew!  Both myself and co-advisor on the case got a real buzz that day, feeling as though we were involved in the real legal world (which we were of course!) and more importantly that we had represented our clients’ interests well.  This experience was certainly a great introduction to the type of work that students can do in the clinic.  Real cases and real representation!  This, plus an earlier case which I co-advised on, meant that I was eligible to apply for one of the summer student roles this year.  I had the time and lived locally so it was a no-brainer – I was definitely going to apply!

Any Other Opportunities?

Scott Gillanders

This summer, alongside my casework, I was assigned to create resources to aid those who are involved in an investigation by the SSSC. I have worked alongside my co-advisor to create informative PowerPoint presentations which can be used by workers and advisors alike. We also got the opportunity to speak to a solicitor at UnionLine about the practical application of the SSSC guidelines, which helped us better understand how these rules are used in real-life situations.

What have you taken away from the experience?

Nikki Munro

Overall, my summer at the Law Clinic has been a really good experience. I have gained more confidence from this role, met some new friends, gained good teamworking skills, developed my legal research skills and much more. I am grateful to have been given this opportunity and would strongly encourage other Clinic students to get involved next summer. Having my supervisors and Diane there has benefited me a lot as they have supported me this full summer and I have learnt a lot from them in how a Law Clinic is run.

We are hosting an event on campus to celebrate our 20th Anniversary on the 21st September 2023. This will provide an opportunity for past and present advisors and friends of the clinic to come together and discuss the issues facing access to justice in our main practice areas: employment, regulation of social service workers and immigration. You can sign-up via the link below:

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/strathclyde-law-clinic-20-year-anniversary-improving-access-to-justice-tickets-660477244217?aff=oddtdtcreator

20th Anniversary: The Agenda

Our Anniversary Celebrations on the 21st September are drawing ever closer, and today, we are delighted to share the finalised agenda of the event!

We look forward to welcoming a range of speakers across the evening, and taking the time to reconnect with old friends, and meet new ones.

For those of you who haven’t yet signed up, you can do so via the link below:
https://lnkd.in/er6Gk6j7

_________________________
AGENDA

6.15pm – Welcome Drinks

An opportunity to network with past and present Law Clinic members

6.40pm – Welcome Kate Laverty, Laura Nicol and Natalie Marshall

6.50pm – Words From Head of Law School

Adelyn Wilson

7.00pm – Access to Justice: Employment

Speakers: Employment Judge Hoey followed by Melissa McKillen, Student Advisor

7.30pm – Access to Justice: SSSC

Speakers: Andrew Crosbie, Advocate, followed by Gregor Henderson, Student Advisor

8.00pm Break

8.15pm – Access to Justice: Immigration

Speakers: Clara Smeaton, Advocate, followed by Rahmah Aslan, Student Advisor

8.45pm – Thank You and Reflections of 20 Years

9.00pm – on to the Union for some celebratory drinks

@ the Terrace (Strathclyde Union)! (optional)

20th Anniversary: An Interview with Laura Cheng

When were you in the clinic?

2014 – 2018 and 2019 – 2020

What are you doing now?

I’m currently a Trainee Solicitor due to qualify this October.

Favourite memory of the clinic?

It’s difficult to pick one but 2017/2018 was a memorable year in the clinic. It was during my honours year that I held the role of joint co-ordinator of the Initial Advice Clinics (IACs). I also participated in the University of Miami/Strathclyde Law Clinic summer exchange programme that year. Of course, getting to visit Miami was excellent but the exchange programme was a great way to meet and work with likeminded people in another jurisdiction. It was an eye-opening experience to gain another perspective of other law clinics outside of Scotland to help promote access to justice.

Since there’s too many favourite memories at the clinic, I also have to mention the IACs which are drop-in clinics for the public to receive free initial legal advice. It coincides with the other brilliant work that the clinic does and is ran by volunteer students and volunteer solicitors/trainee solicitors. As a student, I had the privilege of managing the sessions in 2017/2018 – some evenings could range from seeing a few clients to 20+ but the team of volunteers who dedicated their time and efforts to assist clients made it so rewarding.

I’m happy that I still keep in touch with the friends I made in the clinic, as well as some of the legal professionals who volunteered. During the start of my traineeship, I had a “full circle” moment where I volunteered as a Trainee Solicitor as opposed to a student volunteer at the IACs. For me, the clinic cultivates a real sense of community, and it provided many valuable (and fun!) learning opportunities.

Most nerve-wracking moment?

Aside from being allocated my first ever case at the clinic, my most nerve-wracking moment outside of client work was when Kate (current Director) asked Kirstie (my fellow IAC coordinator who later held Student Director to speak in front of new students during their induction week about the clinic. It not only felt like a big responsibility to represent the clinic but also to encourage students to apply for the new intake. Public speaking in front of a few hundred people isn’t something that I’d naturally jump for joy at – I pictured lots of tumbleweed and positive thoughts such as “what if nobody applies after our talk…?”.

However, it was an honour to be asked and I was happy to share my experiences. The work that the clinic does wouldn’t be possible without the students and supervisors which hopefully inspired the new intake. I’m glad to say that we had a record number of applications that year!

Best takeaway from the clinic?

The clinic provides such a unique experience being able to gain practical experience while studying. I believe it helped my studies and future work prospects, but I also apply what I learned during the clinic in my current role as a Trainee Solicitor.

For many clients at the clinic, their issues can be very personal to them and, in some cases, particularly if it involves their jobs or homes. As such, it was important to keep the client informed throughout the case and explain legal concepts in a digestible manner. However, throughout my time in the clinic, I also learned that clients also valued being listened to. Not only was this applicable as a Student Advisor but in my current role, it is important to build client rapport and provide high levels of client care in order to seek the best outcome for clients.

Message to clinic on 20th birthday?

Happy 20th Birthday! It’s amazing to see the clinic go from strength to strength continuing to promote access to justice after 20 years. Although I’m no longer a student, I know that I’ll always be welcome in the clinic either as a volunteer at the IACs or as part of the alumni. Whilst there is still a lot of work to be done to continue to improve access to justice in the legal sphere, I will always be rooting for the clinic and am grateful to have played a small part in it. Well done to the students, supervisors, and volunteer solicitors (past and present) who have contributed and made a difference. I look forward to seeing some of you in September for the clinic’s 20th anniversary!

We are hosting an event on campus to celebrate our 20th Anniversary on the 21st September 2023. This will provide an opportunity for past and present advisors and friends of the clinic to come together and discuss the issues facing access to justice in our main practice areas: employment, regulation of social service workers and immigration. You can sign-up via the link below:

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/strathclyde-law-clinic-20-year-anniversary-improving-access-to-justice-tickets-660477244217?aff=oddtdtcreator

20th Anniversary: Paman Singh – Law Clinic Life

My history with the Law Clinic

I have been a part of the Law Clinic from inception, in the days when the Law School occupied the basement of the now-demolished Stenhouse building. When I initially joined, it was a completely novel idea back in 2003, when no one really knew what a Law Clinic was, or what we would do. Nonetheless, as fresh law students, we all bought into Professor Donald Nicholson’s vision to help bridge the gap in legal services for the population of Glasgow.

During my time in the Law Clinic, I met a host of characters who helped shape me as a practitioner to this day, including Anabel Fowles and Kate Laverty, the lynchpins upon whose hard work and dedication the Law Clinic went from strength to strength. We were also fortunate to have outstanding practical advocacy training from Charles Hennessy and inspiring lectures on street law from Professor David McQuoid-Mason. Being a part of the Law Clinic really helped me find a purpose, having drifted into law school pretty much because my grades allowed me to.

I took the opportunity to become more immersed in the Clinic, sitting in the executive committee as external relations officer, a firm manager and as a paid summer student.

These days

Nowadays I practice in employment law, something which I got my first taste of in the Clinic. I work for a national firm and deal with all areas of this sector, from advising on a day-to-day basis to contentious litigation. Since completing the diploma in legal practice, I’ve made sure to stay involved with the Clinic. I do this by supporting Clinic students with work-experience opportunities shadowing me, and volunteering at the evening drop-in advice clinics for clients who need urgent assistance on employment matters.

Being a part of these initial advice clinics is one of the things I am most proud of in my career, and it helps keep me grounded. I don’t come from a particularly affluent background; my parents always brought me up to ensure I help those less fortunate than myself and I find myself lucky to be able to do this by assisting the Law Clinic and its clients. Being able to advise the Law Clinic on rolling out online appointments for those in need during the pandemic is something I have put on my CV as it is something I am always happy to share.

Many of my ex-colleagues were also members of the Clinic, it seemed as though my firm naturally found Clinic alumni to be well-rounded traineeship candidates. To leave a legacy of this behind is something I am delighted with. Working on the initial advice clinics with other colleagues is also enjoyable and I take pride in seeing their enthusiasm for helping the Clinic’s clients.

I was in a Hearing in Leeds Employment Tribunal recently and when I mentioned the support the Law Clinic can offer remotely, the Judge informed me he was aware of the Clinic and its services. This gave me a huge sense of satisfaction.

Favourite memory

The highlight of my time in the Law Clinic is without a doubt working as a summer student when the University was on break. Just because classes were finished, it did not mean that cases also came to a stop. Each summer the Clinic employs students to carry on the case work. Having the opportunity to work as a summer student with others was an incredible experience. It felt like we were working in our own little law firm, coming in for a day’s work, progressing our cases, meeting clients, attending hearings and seeking advice from supervisors. Working together with the other students has built lifetime friendships and connections. It also helped put into practice what was in the textbooks.

Valuable lessons

For me, I took away so much from my time as a student adviser (and still do as a volunteer solicitor). Perhaps the most important lesson was to focus in on trying to understand what a client’s desired outcome was and then to try and find a way to get to this. It wasn’t always about writing a formal letter and drafting pleadings, sometimes a telephone call to the other side, helping to explain our client’s position could allow for resolution. It was definitely intimidating liaising with practicing solicitors, I was mindful that I didn’t want to come across as daft or ignorant, but the support of the supervisors ensured everything was quality-checked before I was let loose on the members of the profession. Being able to help real people with real problems also engrained my desire to use my skills to support people wherever I could.

Being Clinic alumni has also helped in private practice. I routinely refer and have had work referred to me from friends who I met in the Law Clinic. We have remained friends and supported each other in our careers.

The need for the Clinic

Law Clinics in general offer a vital service which is unfortunately needed now more than ever. Students may not often appreciate just how important the work they do for clients is. I’ve seen the clinic be used as a CV builder over the years. It should be much more than that. If that’s all you use it for, then you’re missing out on one of the most rewarding aspects of being a student at the Strathclyde Law School. And if you’re going for a training contract or a job and you have Clinic alumni interviewing you, I can guarantee we will want to know about what you’ve done in the Clinic in some detail…What students do for clients can be truly life changing. It can be thankless, there can be agitation on the part of clients, things can progress slowly, but it genuinely enriches peoples’ lives to have someone who listens to them and is seen to fight for them when they feel they have no other recourse.

Takeaway

It gives me real encouragement to see crop after crop of dedicated students signing up to be part of the Law Clinic and to enhance their own reputations and that of the Law Clinic. From first-hand experience, the Law Clinic is now well-known amongst the judiciary in Scotland, as well as in England as a provider of quality representation. Litigants in person at the Employment Tribunal are often told to seek an appointment with the Law Clinic these days. That is a testament to students and staff, past and present. Going forward, I hope to remain as involved as I have been over the last number of years. Towards the end of the year, for example, I plan on taking volunteering leave from work to run an Employment Tribunal advocacy session for students, along with other Clinic alumni.

I secured my traineeship with the firm against which I was able to settle a case, for the highest ever award in the Law Clinic at the time and I was interviewed by the Solicitor I was against. Going forward, I look forward to seeking many other clinicians enter the legal profession and remember their roots.

We are hosting an event on campus to celebrate our 20th Anniversary on the 21st September 2023. This will provide an opportunity for past and present advisors and friends of the clinic to come together and discuss the issues facing access to justice in our main practice areas: employment, regulation of social service workers and immigration. You can sign-up via the link below:

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/strathclyde-law-clinic-20-year-anniversary-improving-access-to-justice-tickets-660477244217?aff=oddtdtcreator