The Scottish Women’s Right Centre and my time as a summer student

(Erin Connor, Summer Student and SWRC Coordinator 2021/22)

SWRC Coordinator and Summer Student, Erin Connor, talks about the work she and other advisors undertake for the collaborative project, the SWRC, and her time as a summer student for the University of Strathclyde Law Clinic.

Summer 2021 marks my second year as a summer student, and the second year carrying out my role remotely! Having thoroughly enjoyed being a summer student last year, I was keen to be part of the team again this summer.

As the volunteer coordinator for the Scottish Women’s Rights Centre (SWRC), the majority of my day is spent on work for this project. The SWRC is a collaborative project providing free legal information, advice, representation and advocacy support to self-identifying women in Scotland affected by violence and abuse. The SWRC is a partnership project between Rape Crisis Scotland, the University of Strathclyde Law Clinic and JustRight Scotland. During term time, I am a part of a team of Clinic student advisors who assist solicitors with casework, legal research and administrative support. Therefore, my role as this years SWRC summer student, is to continue this work throughout the summer.

As all the summer students are currently working remotely, JustRight Scotland have kindly provided me with a work laptop to use over the summer to allow me to assist with casework. Working for the SWRC has not only been incredibly rewarding as I am helping the solicitors to assist women in need, but very beneficial to my studies as well. In addition to carrying out legal research and casework, I have been exposed to various court documents such as defences and summons which has greatly improved my understanding of different court processes. I have also gained an understanding of the process involved in an application to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority and assisted with research for a response to a Scottish Government Consultation among many other things. I have even assisted the SWRC solicitor to pull together my first sizeable court bundle – which, as all Clinic students know, required a lot of time getting to grips with Adobe! JustRight Scotland and the SWRC have been immensely supportive, and it has been a great experience to work with them for the summer.

One of my favourite things about being a summer student is the Clinic environment. Although I have missed being in the office and seeing my fellow advisors in person, the positive atmosphere has been replicated remotely. Despite working primarily with the SWRC, I have still felt connected to the Law Clinic. We have daily team meetings with the students that are working that day, allowing us to provide an update on our capacity and workload and any personal updates as well. In addition to this, the Clinic have held virtual coffee breaks throughout the week for students to meet to catch up which is a great opportunity to meet other Clinic students. These interactions allow us to feel like we’re still working in a team, even though we are physically apart.

Through my role as a summer student, not only have I learnt many new legal skills, but I have been able to have a conversation with and get to know some of the Law Clinic team that I wouldn’t have otherwise and fostered some new friendships. I would encourage any student who wants to develop their skills in a positive and friendly environment to apply!

Erin Connor, SWRC Coordinator 2021/22

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The Prison Project – an update from our coordinator and deputy coordinator

Our coordinator, Gregor Henderson, and deputy coordinator, Katie Gardener, talk about how the Prison Project has evolved during the pandemic and what they are currently working on to develop the project. 

The Coronavirus Pandemic has been difficult for everyone, and it has had adverse effects on the work the Strathclyde Law Clinic Prisons Project could carry out. The Pandemic halted a significant part of the work the project could do, with project members prohibited from entering the prison. This resulted in the project being unable to provide our weekly presentation, where we inform prisoners of their employee rights and the way in which their sentences can become spent. This was particularly significant as important and long-awaited changes to the law occurred in 2019 and 2020. To continue to help in any way that we could, The Prisons Project liaised with the prison to consider alternative ways of providing the presentation remotely. However, with the lack of internet and resources this could not be facilitated.

Whilst The Prisons Project’s work has been curtailed by the Pandemic, we have continued to work in the background developing and innovating the project to help reach its audience.

  • The Presentation shown to prisoners has been updated with the new law of the Management of Offenders (Scotland) Act 2019.
  • The Project has worked on developing a leaflet with the condensed information available from the presentation which will hopefully be available to prisoners interested in learning of their rights and details of the ways their conviction can become spent.
  • There has been talks of developing an IAC specialising for ex-offenders to help them in their current situation after prison.

Whilst some of this work is still in the early stages The Prisons Project is happy with the progress it is making. The Prisons Project is hopeful that these actions will help us reach a greater audience to inform them of their rights.

Furthermore, with Prisons Project Coordinator Emelia Conner graduating the project will move forward with the new Prisons Project Coordinator (Gregor Henderson) and Deputy Prisons Project Coordinator (Katie Gardner) who aim to continue the excellent work Emelia has carried out.

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My Summer as the The Asylum Project Summer Student

(Francesca Pozzo, Summer Student and TAP Coordinator 2021/22)

Our The Asylum Project (TAP) Summer Student and 2021/22 Coordinator, Francesca Pozzo, talks about her time in the project and and her experience as a Summer Student working exclusively on TAP casework.

The Law Clinic has taught me more than I could have hoped – compassion, ethics, integrity and teamwork. The most valuable insight I have gained from the clinic is into who I want to be as a solicitor. The Asylum Project, which I joined in my first year in the clinic, ignited a passion for helping refugees and asylum seekers progress their cases and hopefully find safety and stability. 

As the Summer Student allocated to The Asylum Project, I have had the opportunity to focus on these cases and undertake consistent work in an area that interests me. It has presented challenges – the law is detailed and case dependent, however I have thoroughly enjoyed this aspect as it has given me a breadth of insight and developed my knowledge in these areas. Being able to dedicate time to our TAP clients has cemented my desire to practice in this area. 

My work has included drafting letters of advice, liaising with other solicitors, researching, calling clients using an interpreter and reading reports and court decisions. Although I am participating exclusively in TAP cases, I always feel connected to and included in the Law Clinic through our daily meetings and coffee breaks. Remote working can be difficult, but the supervisors and Student Directors have done an amazing job of fostering a sense of community in the absence of being able to work together in the office. I’ve also had the opportunity to get involved in summer projects with other students. There is constant support and guidance from Kate, Kathleen, Gillian and Diane, creating a truly great environment in which to work and learn. 

My experience as a Summer Student has strengthened many skills I’ve gained since joining the Law Clinic. It has fostered a confidence in my own abilities through a balance between advice from supervisors and the space to do independent work. It has given me a real insight into what life may be like in practice, and I can only hope to join a working environment half as supportive in the future. To anyone who would like to gain experience and develop their skills, I would fully recommend applying to be a Summer Student – you won’t regret it!

Francesca Pozzo, Summer Student and TAP Coordinator 2021/22

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Summer 2021 – an account from our director, Kate Laverty

(My Hebridean break)

Clinic director, Kate Laverty, talks about what summer 2021 has been like for the clinic so far, and what our summer students and volunteer students have been working on throughout the break.

I find it hard to believe that we are facing another summer working from home – it certainly has it’s pros and cons especially during this blistering heatwave. I can’t complain however as I had a completely energising break in South Uist in the Outer Hebrides.

As usual we are continuing to operate a full service throughout the summer and in fact we are often even busier during the summer. Our fantastic team of summer students have hit the ground running. We have a number of general case workers each of them very busy with new and existing cases. These students allow us to continue to represent people over the summer and fulfil our commitments to existing clients many of whom have ongoing employment tribunal proceedings, SSSC hearings or simple procedure actions. We were very fortunate to have the support of Law at Work this year who funded one of our summer interns.

Our two student directors are working away on various matters to get us ready for the year ahead. They have made great headway with our Annual Report, updating the website, working on a new idea for a podcast as well as numerous other tasks.

We were delighted that The Strathclyde Alumni Fund supported a project to get a new Street Law idea up and running and the student assigned to this task has been very productive. She has been working with a number of community organisations discussing the kinds of legal information that would help their members and how best to communicate this information. Our students working on The Asylum Project and the Scottish Women’s Rights Centre have been working on cases, training materials and many other tasks relating to their projects.

Although we have a number of different students in different roles what they have in common is drive and enthusiasm and this is all the more impressive when working from home. We would have loved to have them interacting and sharing ideas in our office environment but working from home has not prevented this from happening. We meet every morning at the very least and it never fails to amaze me how they maintain their motivation and their very positive attitude to clinic work. Each of them is driven to learn as much as they can and contribute ideas about various aspects of the Clinic’s operation and this makes them a joy to work with.

We also have very dedicated student volunteers who, despite their various work, family and social commitments, continue to work hard on their cases and projects throughout the summer on an entirely voluntary basis. We could not do half the amount of work we do without them and they inspire us all. We owe them all a huge thanks.

Kate Laverty, Director

Student Directors: Jordan Hamlett and Rebecca Dyer

TAP: Francesca Pozzo

SWRC: Erin Connor

Street Law: Nicola Maguire

Case Workers: Carly Morrison, Carmen Rowatt, Cara Hope, Mhairi Strachan

Volunteer Students: We wish we could name you all, but a big thank you to all that have, and continue to help throughout the summer.

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University of Strathclyde Law Clinic’s TAP Coordinator, Murray Kemp, Writes About his Time in the Law Clinic

(Murray Kemp, TAP Coordinator 2020-21)

Before we say goodbye to University of Strathclyde Law Clinic’s, Murray Kemp, he writes about his experience working with refugees before joining the Law Clinic and his time as the The Asylum Project (‘TAP’) Coordinator for 2020-21.

Before I joined the clinic, my interest in the asylum process was kickstarted by coverage of the “Refugee Crisis” back in 2015. Although the crisis was merely a high point in what has been a constant stream of people arriving into the UK, the intensified media coverage inspired me to help, so I spent 3 months volunteering with a kitchen project in Patras, Greece.

Once I began my degree, and long after the media spotlight had left, I made a commitment to continue helping the types of people I previously encountered in Greece. As I had always wanted to use my degree to help people and not just line shareholders’ pockets, partly inspired by Meadow in the HBO series, ‘The Sopranos’, I thought that volunteering at an inner-city law clinic seemed like a good place to start. I joined the clinic and took up several cases, but my main focus was ‘The Asylum Project’ (TAP). It was great to get involved, and under the guidance of Jordan Hamlett and Kudakwashe Chinyani, I met my first two clients.

Little did I know that these would be the last clients I met in person. News of a strange virus sweeping through a city in China began to move into my periphery, and before long COVID had hit and we were put into lockdown. This brought new challenges for TAP. Firstly, the training program needed a new format. Previously it had ran as a one-off session, which although informative, limited the amount of people that could join the project. With the help of summer student, Lauryn Dawber, we made a new, pre-recorded training session that meant people could join the project whenever they wanted. A steady stream of volunteers trickled into the project thereafter, and our casework team had great success, with two successful claims in one year meaning 6 people attained refugee status.

The next big challenge was how to do the forum theatre, an interactive public education session that had previously been shown at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. As students were prevented from meeting up, the options were either performing the theatre on Zoom (which was met with universal reluctance) or me whipping something up myself. After roping together a few flatmates and restructuring the script, we filmed a 20-minute-long movie on Snow White entering the UK asylum system. The show debuted at the online fair known as the St Andrew’s Fair Saturday, where it was met with much applause.

Altogether my time at the clinic has been inspiring and a lot of fun. It has been difficult not being able to speak to people face to face, but at least I got one short, sweet semester in the clinic office. I am excited to see how the new EU Immigration IACs work out, and how TAP continues to provide such a valuable service. As the UK Home Office ramps up its Hostile Environment policy and slides deeper and deeper into authoritarianism, the new recruits have their work cut out for them. But then again, the Home Office do not seem to be having much success in Glasgow these days, so I’m sure they will find a way.

Article by Murray Kemp, TAP Coordinator 2020-21.

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