A glance into the IACs’ past year

Law Clinic’s Initial Advice Clinics’ Coordinator, Cara Hope, writes about the IACs’ journey since the beginning of the pandemic.

The Law Clinic’s Initial Advice Clinics (IACs) take place every second Wednesday, in which, volunteer solicitors provide on-the-spot initial advice to clients in matters regarding housing, consumer, civil, and employment law. The IAC appointments are organised and led by students however it is the fabulous team of over twenty volunteer solicitors who provide excellent legal advice to clients.

At the start of the pandemic, a swift change was made from in-person IACs At the start of the pandemic, a swift change was made from in-person IACs to ‘Virtual IACs’. This change was made possible with the innovative thinking of a dedicated, longstanding volunteer solicitor, Paman Singh. Just as people all across the country began the journey of working remotely, the volunteer solicitors immediately got on board with the Virtual IACs. The swift adjustment to remote IACs ensured that access to justice continued which was particularly important during the difficult stages at the height of the pandemic.

Over the past year of Virtual IACs we have been able to assist clients across the entirety of Great Britain. From the Isle of Lewis to Jersey and everywhere in between, the IACs are more accessible than ever and as a result, so is access to justice. Clients have been overwhelmingly grateful for the assistance and advice provided by the remarkable solicitors week after week. Students within the Law Clinic have also greatly benefitted from the knowledge learnt by listening to and assisting the volunteer solicitors.

To top off the excellent year we have had, continuing the IACs in such To top off the excellent year we have had, continuing the IACs in such difficult circumstances, the IACs were shortlisted and ‘Highly Commended’ by the judges at the LawWorks and Attorney General Student ProBono Awards 2021. This was an amazing achievement as it was a very tough competition with many other outstanding pro bono services at law schools and law clinics being recognised. This achievement could not have been possible without the dedication and expertise of our student advisors and incredible volunteer solicitors. The Law Clinic extends a massive thank you to each student and volunteer solicitor for your time and expertise.

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International Women’s Day Blog Post

In the build-up to our ‘Choose to Challenge’ event, we have our second International Women’s Day blog post, written by Margot Nicol, Solicitor and Owner of Nicol, Harvey & Pierce Solicitors, about her experience in the legal industry.

My Father’s Shoes

I am a practising solicitor and proud alumni of Strathclyde Law School. I trained and worked in Glasgow for 6 years before moving to Stranraer. I have been a self-employed, sole practitioner for over 22 years now and principally work at the coal face in both the criminal and civil courts.

My decision to become a lawyer happened suddenly after witnessing my mother sustain a serious injury caused when a glass bottle of a lemonade exploded in her face. Prior to that I had notions of being a lorry driver or a geologist!

I witnessed first-hand the contempt and derision deployed by the lemonade company concerned when they sent out their two suited male representatives to my parents’ house with promises of free lemonade for a year if a disclaimer was signed. It was a fast-moving, working example of the type of situations where inequalities of gender and power could easily result in unfair outcomes. I spotted the inequity then and was inspired into a legal career by a desire to help others in similar situations, fight corners where needed and level the playing fields if possible.

Almost immediately upon leaving the safe haven of Strathclyde Law School to enter the workforce I encountered a full-on affront to my background and gender. I had done Ok at law school and had a few nice extras to detail on my CV which, I thought, boded well for my future employment prospects. However, at one of my first interviews for a traineeship I was brutally informed, in no uncertain terms by the senior, male partner of the firm interviewing me, that “there was no room for me in the profession for three reasons”. He very kindly listed them for me. Firstly, I was from Ayrshire. Secondly, my father was a miner and thirdly I was a woman. I have no doubt my parting words (along the lines of Ayrshire being God’s country, women being incredible and the interviewer’s unfitness to lick my father’s shoes, peppered with a few expletives) put rejection of that job application beyond reasonable doubt!

Although bewildered by this encounter, I was non-the-less undeterred and went on to secure a traineeship with a fine firm where I was privileged to be mastered by two men of integrity. One with an unrivalled work ethic and the other a great orator with fire in his belly. A couple of years later, as I was about to finish my traineeship, I rolled up at a sheriff court to argue my first summary criminal matter, all on my own. The bar officer shouted, “Court!”, we all stood up, and who walked onto the bench but the interviewer from hell, who had now been elevated to the shrieval bench. Suddenly my previous bravado came back to haunt me as I clocked the recognition in the sheriff’s eyes and my mouth went dry. He whispered something to his clerk who then quietly inquired of me, “is your father still a miner?”. That was all I needed to catapult me back into survival mode. With the sweetest smile I could muster I asked the clerk to thank the sheriff for his good wishes and to assure the Sheriff that, not only was my fine father still a miner, I was also still from Ayrshire, I was also still a woman and lest the court forgot, the appeal court was also still in Edinburgh. The sand was marked, and the point made that was needed. My client got a very good result that day!

By digging deep, being fearless and not shrinking from what was right versus what was wrong, gave me the confidence to deal with those particular occasions and many since. The outcomes are not always as successful but that’s acceptable too, provided a spirited, honest effort is always made. Diplomacy is also a good asset. I’m still working on that……

International Women’s Day Blog Post

To celebrate International Women’s Day, University of Strathclyde alumnus, Michele Hughes – Senior Vice President of IT and Business Services at Procter and Gamble, has written about her experience as a woman in the IT industry.

I graduated from Strathclyde University in ’91 with an MEng in Manufacturing Sciences & Engineering. Throughout my studies, I spent more than a year in the Petrochemical/Automotive industries as a female engineering intern. My experiences during that time made me feel that a career as a female engineer in ‘heavy’ engineering industries would be a daily challenge to be taken seriously, to be included and to find a sense of belonging. Upon graduation I made the decision to join Procter & Gamble as an IT systems analyst in their manufacturing plants as it allowed me to bridge the worlds of manufacturing/engineering with the fast-emerging IT industry. That was a life changing decision and throughout the subsequent 30 years, I have had opportunities to live and work all over the world, learn about all facets of running a global business, learn and re-learn the ever-changing IT industry and experience firsthand the power and challenges of achieving an inclusive and diverse workplace. I am currently a Senior Vice President of IT and Business Services based on the global HQ in Cincinnati Ohio.

Throughout my career I have often been the only female in the room and yes, I have been mistakenly taken for the secretary and asked to go get the coffees, the coats and to take the notes! The IT industry was, and continues to be, male dominated where the hustle of a 24×7 work hard/play hard lifestyle is a badge of honour. Despite 30yrs of progress to hire and grow women in IT, I am currently the only female SVP of IT in our company of 100,000 employees. I have been blessed to work in a company which has always put a focus on equality and has zero tolerance for bias or discrimination. This has allowed me to avoid many of the horror stories I hear from women friends in other companies. Despite this, the daily microaggressions persist – being interrupted in meetings, men echoing your ideas as theirs, not being taken as a ‘serious’ IT leader, men making decisions on my behalf around whether I would have the stamina for certain roles or projects, not being invited to the ‘boys’ networking events where decisions get made etc.

My approach has been to ensure I was equally capable in the fundamentals of business and IT as my male peers and then to outshine them in the skills where women tend to excel. Women generally outpace the men on collaboration and relationship skills which are really important in business and on nurturing and growing younger talent. Busy women and mothers are super time efficient and follow the 80/20 rule because they have little choice or else they don’t see their kids! We succeed on sheer tenacity and resilience to never ever surrender.

If I could give my younger self some tips, I would tell her to user her voice and express her opinion earlier in her career. I would tell her to do her homework before the meeting, have a gameplan in mind, speak up and be heard no matter how junior she was. Don’t be that silent person in the corner only sucking oxygen from the room.  I would tell my younger self to worry less about trying to fit in or be liked but instead to determine what you want to be famous for, establish your equity, be yourself and not a corporate clone and then consistently go for it. I would tell her to lift as she grows. Use her increasing power to bring up younger women and to always remember that ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’ so having women in top leadership roles is critical for younger female leaders.

Law Clinic student advisors represent a client at a remote SSSC Hearing

Law Clinic student advisors, Mhairi Strachan and Lauryn Dawber represented a client at a remotely held Temporary Suspension Order SSSC hearing on 8 July 2020.

(Training Officer: Mhairi Strachan)

This was our first experience of representing a worker at a SSSC (Scottish Social Services Council) hearing and our first experience of conducting a hearing remotely. It was certainly challenging with many issues to think carefully about including how our client would manage without support in person, how we would manage communication with each other and the client and how we would manage referring to a bundle while using Microsoft Teams.

We found MS Teams quite difficult to navigate, and between the two of us, we had our fair share of problems with the software. Mhairi ended up needing to use her phone instead of her laptop for the hearing. We could neither see our client, nor communicate with her privately. We overcame this by asking to be put in a private room with her when the panel were speaking in private and when asked whether we would like to take a break, we asked what our client wanted to do.

The hearing was on the application for a temporary suspension order which, if granted, would have a long lasting and very adverse impact on our client. We were able to lead evidence from  our client and another witness and make submissions. After some time  deliberating, the panel decided against a temporary suspension order .

Our client was delighted and we are very happy to have been able to help her achieve this outcome especially  after all of the preparations leading up to and a long day of being involved in the remote hearing. Mhairi and I are very grateful to Kate Laverty, who has supported us in preparing for the hearing.

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Experience of a Summer Student – Ivy Hill

Every year the Law Clinic provides a group of students with the opportunity to work during the summer holidays. The Law Clinic supports clients throughout the year and it has been extremely rewarding to be able to ensure that clients continue to receive high quality support during the summer period.

(Summer Student: Ivy Hill)

This year with COVID-19 preventing us from being together in the office, our summer student roles were carried out online. Despite working from home, the law clinic still managed to keep the comfortable, close-knit working atmosphere between students and supervisors and continue to help our clients. I was hired to take on the role of legal research which meant updating all of the legal information on our website to make it more user friendly. We were very grateful to the Alumni Fund for enabling us to carry our work this summer.

Updating our website and online resources was vital this year because while our offices are closed physically, more people are relying on the website to get information about their legal issues. As a direct result of the Alumni Fund supporting this project, we now feel confident that people can look through our website and find the information they need with ease and in the case that they can’t become a client of the law clinic, we are able to direct them to the website which will help them navigate the process of their case.

To receive monthly updates on the work completed by the University of Strathclyde Law Clinic straight to your email, please sign up here.

Experience of a Summer Student – Carly Morrison

Every year the Law Clinic provides a group of students with the opportunity to work during the summer holidays. The Law Clinic supports clients throughout the year and it has been extremely rewarding to be able to ensure that clients continue to receive high quality support during the summer period.

(Summer Student and Firm B Coordinator: Carly Morrison)

This year I was given the wonderful opportunity to work for the University of Strathclyde Law Clinic over the summer months. It has been an absolute pleasure to be part of the summer team and so rewarding.

The closing of the University of Strathclyde and subsequent lockdown of the country has provided a very different and surreal experience for the summer students this year. We are working remotely and although, I miss the chatter of the law clinic office and seeing everyone each day, working from home has allowed access to justice to continue.

The majority of my day is spent on casework. The law clinic is open all year round, so when the university closes, the summer student’s caseload increases. This has provided a great opportunity to work on a variety of different legal issues and with advisors I haven’t worked with before, albeit via the wonderful world of technology. I start my day by setting myself a to do list and prioritise my tasks, paying attention to anything particularly urgent or returning calls from clients. Despite the quiet, home office, no day is the same and usually very busy. Zoom has become very normal for us all and we are able to “meet”, help one another and share our ideas (and a coffee). In a weird way I feel as though working in this manner has strengthened the friendships within the team and brought us closer. I am extremely proud of how we have all adapted during a time that could not have been predicted, and how we have continued to provide help for our clients.

I could never thank the law clinic, it’s supervisors and my co-advisors enough for the opportunities and experiences that have been afforded to me. The summer placement has allowed me to improve and hone my skills and I would highly recommend that any students who wish to develop their knowledge apply.

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Employment Law and Disability Discrimination Resources Published

The University of Strathclyde Law Clinic is proud to announce the completion of two public legal education projects to assist individuals representing themselves at the Employment Tribunal.

(Disability Discrimination Project Coordinators: Zoe Law and Eilidh Campbell)

The vast majority (59% in the last reporting period) of the Law Clinic’s advice and assistance cases concern employment law. Employment cases by their very nature are more complex than most of the other cases we deal with. Time limits are shorter and there are generally more procedural requirements. In terms of volunteer student time Employment cases require a substantially greater number of hours per case.

Subsequently, the Law Clinic does not have the resources to represent every individual who approaches us for assistance. The Employment Law Project aims to address this gap by providing the public with a step-by-step guide consisting of clear, practical advice on how to raise a claim in the Employment Tribunal. It covers everything from how to raise a grievance at work to how evidence is heard at a final hearing.

The Law Clinic has seen an increasing number of disability discrimination cases each year (disability discrimination cases making up 19.1% of all employment cases over the last reporting period). Furthermore, many facing discrimination are vulnerable and need additional support in managing their cases through the tribunal process. Therefore, the Disability Discrimination Project is aimed at providing more detailed information in order to assist employees who might raise a claim of disability discrimination against their employer. This area of the law is very complex and so the resources provide an explanation of the law in this area and aspects of Tribunal procedure which are unique to disability discrimination cases.

All resources are now available to access, free of charge, on the Law Clinic website here: https://www.lawclinic.org.uk/employment-law-resources.

The completion of the projects is the result of two years of hard work by six Law Clinic Student Advisors and one staff member. The students involved hope the resources will provide some guidance and reassurance to individuals experiencing problems at work.

Employment Law Project Coordinator, James Anderson, reflected on the completion of the online resources by saying:

“I would like to say a massive thank you and congratulations to both the students and staff who have consistently gone well beyond their expected duties in order to deliver these fantastic resources. It has been a large undertaking and one that I am delighted to have been able to oversee to its conclusion. Publishing these online resources is an important step in fulfilling the Law Clinics goal to provide access to justice to a wider audience. As my time in the Law Clinic comes to its end, I will look forward to observing the development of future online guides.

I hope that these resources will be of benefit to all unrepresented claimants seeking advice on how to navigate their way through an unfamiliar and complicated process. Furthermore, I would encourage everyone to share this resource so that it can be accessed by as many in need as possible.”

The Clinic would like to thank the Strathclyde Alumni Fund for providing funding for these projects.

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Law Clinic Executive Committee 2020-2021

Now that the 2019-2020 Academic Year is officially over it’s time to welcome the 2020-2021 Executive Committee.

Over the past two months, interviews took place to recruit the Law Clinic’s 2020-2021 Executive Committee. The Law Clinic received applications from students from all years with all candidates showing great enthusiasm.

Students are crucial to the operation and running of the Law Clinic and it is the Executive Committee who take the reigns in guiding the Law Clinic. This years interviews identified key individuals who will be at the core of the running and development of the Law Clinic especially during this time of uncertainty.

Commenting on the new Executive Committee, Law Clinic Student Directors and Deputy Student Director had this to say:

Karen Yuill (Student Director) said: “After an amazing four years as a student advisor and firm coordinator I am delighted to be one of the new Student Directors. This gives me the opportunity to give something back to the Law Clinic before I finish my academic studies. I am looking forward to seeing how the new executive committee can drive the clinic forward in these unsettling times not only for our clients but for the students also.”

Jordan Hamlett (Student Director) said: “Since joining the Law Clinic, I have always been inspired by the Student Directors and the Executive Committee for all the extraordinary work they have accomplished. They have encouraged me from day one to get more involved in the Law Clinic and provide access to justice to the community. I am thrilled to be one of the new Student Directors alongside Karen Yuill and Rebecca Dyer and ecstatic to work alongside all the highly respectable and hardworking Executive Committee members. I am eager to see how the Executive Committee develop the Law Clinic over the coming year and I hope we are able to inspire individuals to provide access to justice as I have been inspired in the past.

Rebecca Dyer (Deputy Student Director) said: “I am ecstatic to be taking on the role of Deputy Student Director. My experience in the Law Clinic so far has been unforgettable and incredibly rewarding, and I can’t wait to continue my journey in this new role. This organisation is unique and full of hardworking, dedicated students and staff. I am confident that the new executive committee will bring something special in providing access to justice to our clients and developing the Law Clinic as a whole.”

The 2020-2021 Executive Committee is made up of the following people:

  • Student Directors: Karen Yuill and Jordan Hamlett
  • Deputy Student Director: Rebecca Dyer
  • Training Officer: Mhairi Strachan
  • IAC Coordinators: Anthony Pace and Cara Hope
  • Online Project Manager: TBC
  • Communications Officer: TBC
  • Prisons Project Manager: Emelia Conner
  • The Asylum Project Coordinator: Murray Kemp
  • SWRC Coordinator: Erin Connor
  • Criminal Convictions Unit Coordinator: TBC
  • Firm Coordinator (Firm A): Nicola Maguire
  • Firm Coordinator (Firm B): Carly Morrison
  • Firm Coordinator (Firm C): Beth Muirhead
  • Firm Coordinator (Firm D): TBC
  • Firm Coordinator (Firm E): Lauryn Dawber
  • Firm Coordinator (Firm F): Daniel Leyden