University of Strathclyde Law Clinic: The Online Project

Our Online Project Manager, Francesca Pozzo, and Deputy Online Project Manager, Laura Hart, have written a blog post about our Online Project and detail how to seek assistance through our online advice service. 

What is The Online Project?

The Online Project is a free legal information and guidance service accessible through the Law Clinic website. Anyone can submit an enquiry online and will receive a response from one of our trained Student Advisors within just a few weeks. This service is intended to give some general guidance only and is ideal for people who cannot afford to consult a solicitor and cannot obtain legal aid but perhaps just need some initial guidance  regarding the legal aspects of an issue and/or an idea of their next steps towards resolution. The Online Project can help with a range of legal issues including, but not limited to, employment, housing/property, and consumer rights.

What happens when I submit an enquiry?

When we receive an enquiry, it is checked to ensure that it is suitable for an online response. Then a Student Advisor will be allocated to your case. They will apply their own knowledge and conduct research to provide some guidance in response to your query. The advice is all checked over by one of our qualified supervisors.

What will the advice include?

The response will include:

  • An explanation of the relevant law and how it applies to your issue
  • Links to any useful resources and/or services
  • Guidance on the options available and an outline of how to progress

Our dedication to increasing access to justice

This service helps to increase access to justice for those who do not have access to advice or representation. This is a valuable service notwithstanding the pandemic, but with many in lockdown and facing unprecedented circumstances, it is particularly helpful.

If you have a legal issue and would like advice, then our Online Project is here to help you – find us at:

https://www.lawclinic.org.uk/legaladvice/online

Students and Staff take part in Annual Scottish Universities Law Clinic Network Event

Students and staff from the University of Strathclyde recently took part in the ninth annual Scottish University Law Clinic Network (SULCN) via zoom on 27 May.

(Hannah Cosgrove, one of the founding student members of SULCN and Strathclyde Law Clinic alumna)

The event, hosted online this year as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, was established in 2012 with the aim of encouraging Law Clinics across Scotland to share ideas and work together to improve access to justice.

SULCN was proud to welcome guests to a webinar led by the organizations founding student members, Eamon Keane, Hannah Cosgrove and Ryan Whelan. Throughout the event Eamon, Hannah and Ryan reflected upon their experience founding SULCN, how pro bono has affected them throughout their legal careers and how their practice has been affected as a result of the lockdown.

James Anderson, one of the student representatives attending the conference on behalf of the Strathclyde Law Clinic reflected on the event stating:

“It was fantastic that this event could be put together on short notice, continuing the relationship not only between Law Clinics but with Law Clinic alumni and The Law Society of Scotland. It’s refreshing to see that our spirit for access to justice remains undiminished despite the current circumstances.

I have been fortunate enough to attend the last three editions of the annual SULCN event and I have found the experience to be highly motivational, learning from a variety of contributors from across the Scottish access to justice community. This year was no different and it was particularly inspiring to hear from Eamon, Hannah and Ryan the three founding student members of SULCN.

Now that I am graduating from University, I will look forward to attending future SULCN Conferences as an alumni (hopefully) in person.”

Kirstie Webb, a student advisor at the University of Strathclyde Law Clinic also reflected on her experience of the event saying:

“Despite not being able to (physically) host the ninth annual SULCN conference, it was fantastic to be part of the webinar to hear from each of the founding student members of SULCN. It was both fascinating and inspiring to hear the different legal journeys of the founding members since their time at university and within SULCN. It was so encouraging to see such a large turnout to hear about the importance of pro-bono work… albeit virtually!

As my time at the University of Strathclyde Law Clinic comes to an end, I look forward to seeing the continual great work of Law Clinic’s across Scotland and the growth of SULCN.”

Please click here to find out more about SULCN, its work, members and events.

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Working from Home Under Covid-19: A Students Perspective

Law Clinic Student Director and student advisor Kirstie Webb writes about her experience working from home under Covid-19.

(Law Clinic Student Director Kirstie Webb)

“When life as we know it changed on 23rd March, many of us had to adapt to a different way of living (and working) that we had never previously considered. As most of us adjusted to a world full of zoom meetings and make-shift working from home stations, the Law Clinic has also adapted its service to continue providing legal advice and representation to those who need it most. 

“The Coronavirus may have forced us to close our office doors at the University of Strathclyde, however, we have endeavoured to keep it business as usual with our ongoing casework and online service. Our supervising solicitors, administrators and students have been working remotely to ensure that all our client’s legal meets are met. This has included zoom client meetings, even initial client meetings for new clients, and conducting Employment Hearings remotely. Preparing for a hearing at the Employment Tribunal is challenging in itself, however our student advisor’s have taken it in their stride in conducting several Employment Tribunal hearings from home. This ability to represent our client’s in even the most uncertain times is a testament to the dedication of our student volunteers.

“A great highlight within the Law Clinic from the past six weeks is that we conducted our first remote Initial Advice Clinic (IAC) on 20 April. Before the pandemic, our IAC’s were one of the busiest parts of our service. Our IAC’s composed of two fast-paced night’s each month, where on average 20 members of the public were receiving on the spot legal advice. Whilst our first remote zoom IAC saw significantly less people, the drive of our volunteer student advisors and solicitors to hold this session is something to be celebrated.

“Despite the majority of our services still running, unfortunately, volunteers working on some of our projects have not been able to continue at this time. These projects include our Scottish Women’s Rights Centre, Criminal Convictions Unit and Prisons project. We hope that work will be able to resume on these as soon as possible.

“Reflecting on working from home from a personal perspective, I have found it difficult to adjust to my very quiet dining room and miss the buzz and chatter of our offices. This has been a particularly surreal experience as my time at university and the Law Clinic is coming to an end. When motivation is dwindling, I think it has been important to set targets both personally and professionally to what I would like to achieve during this time. And while I can’t say that my Spanish has improved to the level it should have, I think it’s equally as important to be proud of completing daily tasks and accomplishing small goals.

“At the end of the day, this is a time which we could have never predicted, and everyone is coping the best they can. What I am certain of during this global pandemic is that I am extremely proud to be part of the Law Clinic, which is still helping to provide access to justice, even in the most uncertain times.”

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Law Clinic Supervisors attend the Biennial Conference in Indonesia

Kathleen Bolt and Gillian Melville, legal supervisors at the Strathclyde Law Clinic, had the opportunity to attend the Biennial Conference organised by the Global Alliance for Justice Education in December 2019. The following article describes their experience.

“The Biennial Conference takes place in a developing country with the aim of extending participation in discussion and debate around justice education across as many countries as possible. This year the Conference was held in Indonesia. The Alliance exists to promote justice education in a variety of ways. At its heart is a commitment to the use of clinical legal education and student participation in the delivery of legal education to achieve social justice. This is best delivered using experiential learning. The University of Strathclyde’s law clinic and Clinical LLB is a prime of example of this.

(From Left to Right, Law Clinic Supervisors Kathleen Bolt and Gillian Melville)

“The Conference involved workshops spanning 5 days with two further days training in delivering clinical legal education and street law. Delegates from all over the developing and developed world participated- sharing experience of both clinical teaching methods and initiatives and the many and varied ways in which University students and staff, local lawyers and paralegals are working together to try to deliver social justice for marginalised groups through street law and legal clinics. There were a number of presentations from students including those hosting the Conference at Pasundan University, Bandung, where 100 student volunteers looked after delegates with great hospitality and care; many involved in street law projects with young people with disabilities, sex workers, elderly women involved in recycling plastic, an eco-project and people living with HIV and drug addictions. 

“The Conference highlighted the nature of the social justice issues faced across the world, including gender-based violence, trafficking of women, detention of prisoners without trial and the needs of street children. How do we consult and involve communities in identifying the issues that are important to them, how do we tackle the disconnect between what law promises to people and what it delivers-and how do we ensure that people are aware of the rights that they even have?”

Kathleen Bolt concluded on her experience of the Conference:

“Everything we discussed could apply to any one of the communities in the countries and regions we represented in their own way. The Conference created an environment for sharing experiences and learning in a supportive and constructive way and represented all that is good about internationalism, a core value of this University.”

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Student Reflection: Assisting a Client at Judicial Mediation

Diploma student and Law Clinic Student Advisor Eilidh writes about her recent experience at Judicial Mediation. 

“Judicial Mediation is becoming an increasingly popular way of resolving disputes in the Employment Tribunal. It involves the parties to a claim and their legal representatives spending a day together trying to resolve the dispute in a way that everyone is happy with. The mediator is a tribunal judge who has been trained as a mediator. While it sounds like a straightforward concept, my experience accompanying clients to mediation has taught me that it is every bit as challenging as the tribunal hearing process.  Because it is open to the parties to discuss any issues they think are relevant, it is impossible to predict what will happen on the day and advisors have to be prepared for all eventualities. Here at the Law Clinic, the majority of our cases are employment ones (59% in the last session) and so a number of our advisors have accompanied clients to Judicial Mediation. In my time at the Law Clinic I have accompanied two separate clients to Judicial Mediation, one last year and one this year.

(Law Clinic members at the Clinic’s 2020 Away Day, not a picture of the Judicial Mediation)

“An advantage of the process is that the resolutions reached can be much more creative than that awarded by the tribunal, which is restricted by the powers of the tribunal. In mediation, the parties can agree anything they want to, which could include for example that managers will receive further training, for example on how to manage employees with a disability. 

“The tribunal process can be very adversarial and a lot of the disputes we see could have been prevented through better communication and trust between the parties. The tribunal process can often make that situation worse by creating this conflict between the parties. Mediation takes the opposite approach and tries to rebuild that trust and communication wherever possible while deescalating the conflict. This is particularly helpful for clients who remain in employment and are keen to keep the relationship with their employer as positive as possible in the future.”

Summing up her experience of Judicial Mediation, Eilidh notes:

“I found the process makes it possible to discuss things that clients would not normally get to talk about in the tribunal process. For example, they have an opportunity to explain in their own words the impact the case has had on them. Saying this to their employer/former employer in the more relaxed setting of mediation and not in a tribunal process where they will be cross-examined by the other party’s solicitor can be a really therapeutic thing. Even if no resolution is reached on the day, clients usually feel relieved to have said what they want to say. It is a long and exhausting day for both advisors and clients but overall I found the Judicial Mediation process to be a helpful one in obtaining good outcomes for our clients.”

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Strathclyde Law Clinic’s Prisons Project

Since September 2019, student members of the Prisons Project have visited HMP Low Moss prison 20 times, engaging with approximately 10-15 prisoners a week.

During these visits students provide prisoners with information about their employment rights following release and how the law affects these rights. Through this initiative Student volunteers have provided this information to over 200 prisoners since September 2019. 

Emelia Conner, Prisons Project Coordinator

Emelia Conner, the Prisons Project Co-ordinator, describes the progression and growth of the project:

Moving forward, we are looking at the possibility of presenting to prisoners that are soon to be released as well as prisoners that have just arrived in prison, as we currently do. We hope this will lead to an even wider circle of prisoners understanding their rights.

“Having started the year with just 1 member, there are now 5 students involved with the project, yet we are always looking for new members to join. Before Christmas, we were given a tour of the prison and shown around the workshops and education centre which was very worthwhile as it gave us a better understanding of what goes on inside the prison and out with the area that we present in. 

“Overall the relationship with the prison has been very positive this year and they greatly enjoy when the project visits and provide a presentation. Some of the guards have heard the presentation so many times that they know it better than us. In addition, the teachers from the education department have been sitting in on our presentation because word has spread to them that it is very informative.”

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Law Clinic Director attends Conference at the University of Hong Kong

In October 2019 Law Clinic Director, Kate Laverty, attended a conference to celebrate 50 years of the Faculty of Law at the University of Hong Kong.

“I was delighted to be invited to a Conference in Hong Kong, in October 2019, to celebrate 50 years of the Faculty of Law at The University of Hong Kong. The conference was on Experiential Learning and Innovations in Legal Education.  It drew on the experience of a number of experts in this field from various parts of the world including, China, USA, Australia, Hong Kong, and the UK. We also heard from those in other disciplines in Hong Kong including medicine, dentistry, and education all of which gave a very interesting insight to different approaches to experiential learning.

“Many different approaches to legal education were discussed from Monash University whose students are guaranteed participation in a Clinical programme to the use of simulation in others. Some talked about advances in AI and how we should prepare our students for developments of this nature. Tania Leiman from Flinders University, Australia teaches classes on Law in a Digital Age (which includes building AI legal apps to increase access to justice) and Law in Action (which includes a law reform clinic working on legal implications of emerging technologies). Sun Yat Sen’s University Clinic had similarities to ours at Strathclyde in that it is involved in labour rights and their students represent their clients in courts and tribunals.

Pictured above: Speakers at the Conference.

“It was fantastic to hear about what was going on in teaching and Clinics in various parts of the world and our University of Hong Kong hosts were extremely warm and welcoming and organised a very informative and interesting conference. We wish them all the best for the next 50 years.

“It was particularly nice for me to return to Hong Kong having lived and worked there for a few years in the early nineties. It is a very vibrant and interesting city and we hope that it manages to resolve its recent difficulties in the near future.”

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Law Clinic Initial Advisor Training 2019

The University of Strathclyde Law Clinic recently concluded its Initial Advisor Training.

2019/20 Intake with Training Officer Anthony Pace and Deputy Training Officer Abdullah Kayani

A total of 39 new advisers were successfully trained over four sessions designed to brief new advisers on all aspects of the Clinic’s work.

Sessions involved exercises designed to teach interviewing skills, introductions to legal research with Charles Hennessy who is the Academic Director of the Diploma in Professional Legal Practice at the university, and Professional Ethics lessons with Clinical LLB Director Rhonda Wheate. Mock interviews and letter writing lessons allowed new members to develop skills which will aid them throughout their time at the Clinic and beyond.

Following feedback from previous years’ intakes, sessions at this year’s IAT were reimagined to place a greater emphasis on practical and interactive exercises to make the training more engaging for trainees to make sure they got the most out of each session.

Charles Hennessy delivering a session on legal research skills

New members were given the opportunity to meet each other as well as existing members of the Clinic, and were enthusiastic and hard-working. Several of the new intake are already getting involved at the Clinic including taking on case work, attending IACs and taking part in the Clinic’s many projects.

Training Officer Anthony Pace commented on the success of the training; ‘The Clinic would like to thank the many existing members who volunteered to help with many of the IAT sessions. Without their help successfully running this year’s IAT would not have been possible.”

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Strathclyde Law Clinic Supervisor Finalist for Herald Society Award

The University of Strathclyde Law Clinic was delighted to attend the recent Herald Society Award Finals.

(From left to right: Student Director’s James Anderson and Kirstie Webb and Supervising Solicitor Gillian Melville)

On Wednesday 6 November 2019, Law Clinic Supervisor Gillian Melville, Student Director James Anderson and Student Director Kirstie Webb attended the Herald Society Awards 2019.  Gillian Melville, Supervising Solicitor at The University of Strathclyde Law Clinic had been shortlisted as a finalist in the category: Herald Society Worker of the Year.

The Awards, run in association with Wheatley Group recognise and celebrate the dedication, imagination and the vital impact of the best work taking place in the public and voluntary sectors throughout Scotland. We would like to congratulate all prize winners for the incredible work they have accomplished within Scotland and the prizes they won are a true reflection of the effort they put in to improving their community.

James Anderson reflected on the event saying:

“On behalf of all students who volunteer at the University of Strathclyde Law Clinic I would like to say a massive congratulations to Gillian for this nomination. She is a fantastic supervising solicitor, guiding students with her wealth of knowledge while remaining a calm and reassuring presence to students across all stages of their degree.

Her nomination is a testament to her passion, dedication and commitment to providing access to justice, positively influencing the lives of both clients and students. Furthermore, while she did not win the overall award, her nomination shows how much value is placed on the work she does at the Law Clinic.”

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Law Clinic AGM 2019

The Law Clinic recently held its Annual General Meeting on Wednesday 23 October 2019 in the McCance Building. The event was well attended by members across all years attending in addition to Law Clinic alumni.  

(Law Clinic AGM Award Winners From Left to Right: Scott MacDonald, Robert Dorrian, Claire Thomson. Anthony Pace, Rebecca Farquhar, Elspeth Drysdale, Eilidh Campbell, Ben Dickson)

The AGM opened with an introduction from Law Clinic Director Kate Laverty followed by Student Directors James Anderson and Kirstie Webb who provided a review of Session 2018/19. Notably, the Law Clinic won/saved its clientele a total of £154,800 over the reporting period – a record high. This sum means that the Clinic has now won/saved its clients a total of £1,100,000 since its creation in 2003. For further information regarding Law Clinic Session 2018/19 please follow this link in order to access the Law Clinic Annual Report: https://www.lawclinic.org.uk/publications/annual-reports

Some of the most important awards in each clinic session are those that we award internally to the students that allow the clinic to operate so effectively. These are traditionally awarded at our AGM.

This year, the award winners were as follows:

Best Newcomer: Claire Thomson

Best Project Work: Robert Dorrian and Scott MacDonald  

Best Case: Elspeth Drysdale and Kara Toal

Best Case Work: Eilidh Campbell  

The Amanda Benstock Award for Compassion: Ben Dickson 

The Effie Shaw Award for Dedication: Anthony Pace

Best Overall Contribution: Rebecca Farquhar

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