I was a member of the Clinic between 2009 and 2013. I relocated to Bristol recently for work and contacted Donald to ask how I could offer the Clinic practical support remotely. Following Donald’s unique brand of cajoling, I was persuaded to convert the compliments I was paid during that conversation into this article encouraging you to get involved in the Clinic’s work.
There are currently four ways to support the Clinic: – 1) donate money to help it pursue its goals; 2) volunteer at IACs; 3) use your specialist knowledge to advise on a particular project or give a training session; and 4) attend the Clinic’s social events. As described on Page 6 the Clinic is also piloting remote supervision of its Online Project but we need to await the outcome of this pilot.
There are various benefits to the various methods of supporting the Clinic. Most importantly, you will be helping to make a difference to the lives of individual clients. More selfishly, involvement at IACs or on other projects or training counts towards unaccredited CPD and gives you a chance to network with current Clinic members who will soon be colleagues, peers, instructing in-house counsel and advocates.
In terms of opportunities, two points can be made. First, the Clinic is diversifying. It still does tremendous work for individuals facing employment, landlord/tenant and consumer issues, but there is now also a Criminal Convictions Unit, an Online Unit allowing a more diverse range of cases to be addressed, a fledgling enterprise project aimed at small businesses, an Immigration Project and the Scottish Woman’s Rights Centre. This range will surely only increase because of the Clinic’s unprecedentedly large headcount. Consequently, there will be more synergy with what we, as alumni and supporters, do in our working lives. Secondly, consider the nature of these projects. The Clinic has always done invaluable work for individual clients and will continue to do so. Now, it is also developing the ability to address wider issues. You could be part of a Clinic that makes a positive difference to our society on a bigger scale than ever before. Seize the opportunity.
We look at the progress of our projects over the last year.
The Small Business Law Unit (SBLU)— a new and very different project
The SBLU aims to provide legal advice to individuals starting up a new business, small businesses, social enterprises and charities who cannot otherwise afford this advice. It will focus on providing advice in areas such as employment, commercial and contract law through the use of information sessions, workshops, business Initial Advice Clinics and bespoke client services.
We hope that through providing these services, we will help empower community members and encourage the individuals behind these businesses to enforce good business practices and make their business a success, thus helping not only the individual served, but also their employees, customers and the local community.
Although the idea for the project was only developed over last summer, we have now entered the pilot stage, with the aim to launch in September 2016. On the 21st June 2016 the Unit held the first Business Law Bootcamp which provided information on a range of legal areas and which had a fantastic turnout and received great feedback.
We have also been very fortunate to have support from the existing business network in Glasgow and other Business Clinics throughout the UK, such as QLegal, a part of the legal advice centre at Queen Mary’s University in London, and the Student Law Office at Northumbria University. These organisations have provided us with insight into business law and practices, for which we are very grateful. We would also like to extend our thanks to DLA Piper for their external supervision and presentations during the Bootcamp and their continued support of this new project.
With so much support and the help of dedicated students, we are looking forward to seeing the SBLU grow over the next few months and provide access to justice to new clients!
The Housing Project has forged ahead in its mission to educate people on housing rights.
We have been working together with the Home Owner Housing Panel (HOHP), which identified that some homeowners were having difficulties in completing their applications to launch complaints about their Property Factor. The Project is in the process of setting up drop in sessions where Members will assist homeowners in completing their application. We have worked hard in recent months to put together a comprehensible presentation which can be delivered at these meetings.
Having completed the presentations we are now in the process of organising several sessions so that we can have a “dry run” of the presentations before delivering to HOHP applicants in the coming weeks
Our Online Project has continued to increase our provision for clients who are perhaps unable to come in to the Law Clinic or reside in rural areas which would make it difficult for them to travel. We currently have 40 advisors involved in the project. In the year to July 2015 we managed to advise a total of 107 clients, and from that date another 123 clients.
Recently, one of our alumni and the instigator of this project, Andrew Ross , has volunteered to provide remote supervision of cases from his new job at Burges Salmon in Bristol. This is a model we hope to expand, and if you would like further information plus get in touch to discuss the possibility.
Initial Advice Clinics
Once again, we are thrilled with the continual growth of the Law Clinic’s Initial Advice Clinics (IACs).
Acting as a crucial branch of the Law Clinic in reaching the wider community, our dedicated volunteer solicitors continue to provide on-the-spot legal advice at drop-in sessions in the evenings. IACs run on the first Wednesday of every month at the Mitchell Library and on the third Monday at the University of Strathclyde Law School.
To learn more about the IACs, or to get involved, please get in touch by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Scottish Women’s Rights Centre
The Scottish Women’s Rights Centre is a collaboration between Rape Crisis Scotland, Legal Services Agency and the University of Strathclyde Law Clinic. The Centre offers free and confidential legal advice and information to women who are survivors of gender based violence whilst the helpline first launched on April 22 2015 and has run every Wednesday since. This has now expanded to include a Tuesday evening.
The project has also successfully been operating legal information surgeries run by a solicitor from LSA at two Rape Crisis Centres. A Glasgow surgery works in partnership with the Support to Report project and runs on Mondays from 10am-1pm. A Lanarkshire surgery is based in the Lanarkshire Rape Crisis Centre working in partnership with the North & South Lanarkshire Violence Against Women Partnerships and runs on Thursdays 10am – 1pm.
Both of these services are free to survivors and operate on an appointment basis. They offer a great opportunity for survivors to have one-on-one contact with the Centres solicitor and support services are on hand to offer assistance if needed. Law Clinic volunteers assist the solicitor at these drop in sessions by taking notes, thus gaining a great experience in expanding their knowledge of how to deal with survivors of gender based violence.
The Prisons Project
In February 2016 the Prisons Project gave their first presentation to offenders since 2013!
In 2013 the project faced significant challenges due to new policies being imposed by the Scottish Prison Service. After in-depth discussions with HMP Low Moss throughout the following year, it was agreed that they were willing to waive the requirement for disclosures to be carried out in exchange for the students involved undertaking a training programme within the prison.
The first presentation took place on 26 February and since then presentations have been taking place on a weekly basis. We now present on the topic of the employability of offenders – focusing on the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 – and joining the armed forces with convictions. Both topics have received positive feedback from offenders and prison staff. We are hoping to expand into other prisons, most likely Greenock next, as well as undertaking new topics including Housing Rights and Rights to Benefits in the coming weeks.
The project is offering an excellent opportunity to get involved in a unique area of law and to work with people who really need our help and support, while also giving providing students a fantastic research opportunity that gives them insight into how those with convictions struggle to reintegrate into society.
The Immigration Unit
The Immigration Unit was launched in the second half of the 2014-15 academic year and plays an important role in challenging failed immigration and asylum cases.
Refugees are often refused asylum by both the Home Office and at appeal even though they have a well-founded fear of persecution in their country of origin. There are many reasons why this may happen; however, once they are in this position, they are extremely vulnerable as they are no longer entitled to even minimal state support and often become destitute. It can also be difficult for them to gather fresh evidence in support of their cases.
In response, the Law Clinic’s Immigration Unit is working in partnership with the Refugee Survival Trust and the Scottish Refugee Council on a project to assist destitute asylum seekers who have been refused asylum to gather new evidence in support of their cases as A first step towards putting in a fresh claim for asylum.
To this end, it has recruited a total of 20 members who have received training from Freedom from Torture, an organisation that offers counseling and other vital support to torture survivors and those working with them. Since July 2015, when the Immigration Unit received its first referral, there have been 43 successful referrals to the Law Clinic from the Scottish Refugee Council and in each case, the referred asylum seekers have been given detailed advice in relation to the type of evidence needed to support fresh applications for asylum, as well as assistance to obtain such evidence where they meet the Law Clinic’s criteria for help as a client.
The Immigration Unit will soon pilot a monthly immigration advice clinic at the Lodging House Mission where English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) classes are conducted.
The Criminal Convictions Unit
The Criminal Convictions Unit (CCU) began the new academic year with a record number of cases (five in total) and project members, and project expansion continued as expected as a consequence of overall Clinic expansion. The Presumed Innocent Network (PIN), a collaborative effort involving the CCU, Abertay Justice Project (AJP) and the Miscarriages of Justice Organisation (MOJO), promises to continue to fill the demand for cases created by the growing supply of project members ready and willing to engage in potential miscarriages of justice investigations.
The CCU hosted two exciting training sessions in semester 1. The first was conducted by the Scottish Criminal Case Review Commission (SCCRC), role is to review and investigate alleged miscarriages of justice. This session has provided an invaluable insight into the investigative techniques of the SCCRC for two consecutive years now.
Dr. Richard Adams and the Miscarriages of Justice Organisation (MOJO) conducted the second session. Dr. Adams is a Chief Inspector at Police Scotland where he is the Head of Policing Values and Human Rights. This was a great opportunity to hear an influential member of Police Scotland provide information on the value-based approach adopted by Police Scotland in their investigations. Following Chief Inspector Dr. Adams, MOJO brought along an ex-client to recount his experience as a victim of a miscarriage of justice. Hearing his experience served to humanise the process miscarriages of justice victims must go through, and allow unit members to witness first-hand and appreciate the potential effect their efforts might have in turning peoples’ lives around for the better.
The CCU is also pleased to announce that an exciting and long sought after collaboration with the university’s forensic science department has finally been implemented. A select few of the University’s MSc forensic science students will be given the opportunity to become involved in CCU cases where forensic input is required. This collaboration is an exciting addition to the project and one that is sure to provide a fresh perspective on investigations in an area of expertise law students are not fully equipped to grasp.
When I met Kate Laverty shortly after setting up the Law Clinic, I felt immediately that I had met a kindred spirit – someone who cared deeply about helping others in society. Unlike me, Kate had a Scottish law degree and had even practised law. So it did not take much thought in 2006 to choose her as the Clinic’s first supervisor.
Since then, Kate has been a brilliant supervisor, taking our casework to a far more professional and ambitious level than I ever imagined. She has been responsible for some of the biggest and most important cases we have had, but does not confine her efforts to clients alone. Instead she takes a key role in mentoring students, and in ambitious Clinic development.
When Kate started, our activity was confined to casework. Over the years, Kate has always played an important role in guiding and supporting the students responsible for projects which have extended the reach of our service to the community. She was particularly helpful in relation to the Innocent Project (now the Criminal Convictions Unit) and the Immigration Unit. However, perhaps her greatest legacy to date is the establishment of the Women’s Rights Centre in which she plays a leading role. Her runner up position last year in the Herald Society Worker of the Year Award only goes some way to recognise her contribution to the community.
No doubt countless students over the last ten years owe Kate a huge debt of gratitude in the way she has nurtured their legal skills and enthusiasm. I am equally grateful for the role she has played on the Executive Committee and more recently the Management Committee, as well as being someone I can always turn to for advice . Over the years I have come to trust Kate’s judgment on all matters clinical (and some non-clinical!). She has proved extremely wise and has an instinct for the right decision. I am not sure how I would have managed without her over the years.
Over and over again I feel that Kate has taught me a great deal, from how to draft a letter that’s got a degree of humanity rather than a cold business-like tone, to handling people with empathy and finding creative solutions to their problems.
Nothing is ever too much for Kate and she is never too busy to listen and help. Kate is a great inspiration and role model for all students in the Law Clinic because of her dedication, attention to detail and the way that she approaches problems
Kate was integral to the development of the Scottish Women’s Right Centre structure, service delivery, recruitment of staff and volunteers. She approaches her work with knowledge, skill and humour. Her contribution has been invaluable.
Katy Mathieson, SWRC
The image of Miami is one of glamorous beaches and fun. However, on our trip we learned that much of Miami is not really like this at all. Instead, poverty is evident almost everywhere. This is particularly the case in the area around the South Florida Aids Network, where we shadowed Miami Health Rights Clinic students at while they conducted client interviews. The clients we saw did not just have one legal problem; they had a whole host of related problems that made for harrowing listening. Even outside the hospital we were confronted with a whole community of homeless people, sleeping rough along the pavements. We were informed by our student guide that this was in fact the ‘real’ Miami.
Heading back towards the Miami University campus, the differences with the area we had just visited as the houses are big, and the carparks are filled with expensive vehicles. Nevertheless, the students at the Health Rights Clinic are committed to using their time and resources to help bridge the gap in whatever way they can. Theirs is one of a number of clinics operated by the Law School and their remit covers not only advice in relation to accessing health care, but addressing the raft of other legal problems facing their clients.
There was a lot of thought provoking discussion about the similarities and differences between access to justice in Glasgow and Miami over the days which followed, and the students were encouraged to identify which particular issues they were most interested to explore further in research projects which later culminated in presentations on the return trip to Glasgow.
The students and supervisors were then given the chance to see the sights of Miami, and soak up the sunshine. Saturday consisted of a guided walk around Wynwood Art district, followed by lunch at Wynwood Diner, giving the students the typical American experience. Before heading to the farewell dinner, the exchange group spent time at South Beach and stocked up on some American candy to fill up their suitcases. The students were able to enjoy Haitian food before bidding farewell.
Our hosts at the Miami Health Rights Clinic treated us spectacularly well, and we returned the favour whilst they were here during May. After having arrived and settled in to their accommodation the group from Miami got down to exploring the city they would call home for the following couple of days which included a tour of Glasgow City Chambers as well as the Law Clinic and even joined in on one of our Executive Committee Meetings. We also attended a Ceilidh on the Friday evening so that they could experience something quite unique and on the Saturday they explored the West End taking in Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Glasgow University before heading to a BBQ at Kate Laverty’s home. Although the weather was not perfect this was a fantastic way to finish their visit and helped to forge stronger ties between both clinics.
We look forward to continued cooperation with our friends in Miami!
Hannah Grace, Kate Connelly, Gillian Melville & Heather Kemmett
Indeed, after years of attending international law clinic conferences I have yet to learn of a bigger clinic anywhere in the world. Thanks to a legacy left to us by Robert Fernan Smith, we have now expanded to 274 student members, almost 100 more than we had two years ago.
Last academic year students have taken on over 257 cases, which, when added to the 199 clients advised at the Initial Advice Clinics, represents our most significant service to the community to date. All of this has been possible while maintaining our usual high standards, thanks to our supervisory capacity being doubled (from two to four supervisors).
This expansion has also allowed us to bed in the new Immigration Unit and Scottish Women’s Right Centre, both of which were launched last year and are now integral parts of our activities.
As usual, the Clinic never stands still, despite the perennial promise of a year of consolidation! Over the last year, we have developed two new ventures. First, we are now providing services more directly within the community by attending a housing shelter to help people with their social benefits and other problems. The second project aims to go beyond simply offering legal services to those of limited means and to help them to start their own business — putting themselves into the position where they no longer need our help.
This latter project was developed by Stacey Martin and Fergus Lawrie. Fergus was also instrumental in bringing a new form of training into the Clinic and for organising last years’ inaugural Miami exchange. For this he was the deserved winner of the Best Contribution by an Individual Student at this year’s LawWorks & Attorney-General’s Award. This was the fourth time in ten years that this particular award was won by a Strathclyde student and adds to the other three successes achieved by the Law Clinic at these awards – far more than any other law clinic. And just to prove we are not just the biggest but also the best, the year was capped by winning the Pro Bono award at the prestigious Scott & Co legal awards.
And so, after all this excitement, we launch optimistically into next year’s “consolidation”…
Professor Donald Nicolson, OBE