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

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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Coronavirus Update from Law Clinic Director Kate Laverty

Law Clinic Director: Kate Laverty

“It is now over eight weeks since the Law Clinic had to move to remote working when the University buildings all closed. I have been so impressed how our team of staff and students have coped with this new way of working. We are all presented with different challenges, but we have kept pace with ongoing cases, taken on new cases, and kept our IAC’s and Online services going.

“Our group of IAC volunteer solicitors and students have very quickly adapted to helping people by phone or videoconferencing. It is of course very different from seeing people in person but at least we can still give advice and guidance which can go a long way to help those facing difficult legal problems. We had no shortage of volunteer solicitors willing to offer this service remotely and we are so grateful to them all for their time and commitment to the Law Clinic.

“In the coming weeks we will be trying to ensure our website is populated with more useful advice and guidance on the issues faced by many of our clients and re-assure people that we are still operating and can continue to provide advice and representation.

“In the midst of the challenges for the Law Clinic and its clients posed by the Coronavirus pandemic our volunteer students have also had to cope with a new way of sitting exams, completing assignments and for many finishing their years at University with no way to get together with their course mates and other friends to mark the end of several years hard work.  Summer graduations have also been cancelled which Diane and I will particularly miss. We will just have to find another way to celebrate our student’s achievements before or after lockdown and they deserve an extra special congratulations in the circumstances.

“So many people have suffered in different ways, from the effects of Coronavirus and our thoughts and best wishes go to those suffering from ill health or the effects of lock down.

“We have no information as to when we will be back in our offices in George Street but as soon as we are, we will let everyone know.

“Some good news for the Clinic is that our IAC team, led by Rebecca Farquhar and assisted by her deputies Chloe Morgan and Karen Yuill were shortlisted for ‘Best Contribution by a Team of Students’ in the LawWorks and Attorney General Student Pro Bono Awards 2020. It is fantastic to be shortlisted amongst so much stiff competition and we wish them the best of luck in the awards.

“Emelia Conner who runs our Prisons project won the StrathUnion Star Award for ‘Community Project of the Year’ for her work as project co-ordinator. A very well deserved award for Emelia who brings so much enthusiasm and commitment to this project.

Take care and keep safe.”

Kate Laverty

Law Clinic Director

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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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My Experience Volunteering at the Scottish Women’s Rights Centre

Law Clinic student advisor Rebecca Tait, and a new member of the Scottish Women’s Rights Centre advisor writes about her experience with the SWRC.

‘’The Scottish Women’s Rights Centre (SWRC) has been a collaborative effort between the Law Clinic, Just Right Scotland and Rape Crisis Scotland since 2015. It exists to give advice to women suffering from gender-based violence and helps them navigate various legal routes to protect themselves. A vital element to the collaboration’s success is the use of helplines. As a student volunteer since the beginning of the year, these helplines are my main responsibility and I cannot emphasise their importance enough. 

Rebecca Tait, Law Clinic Student Advisor and SWRC volunteer

“These helplines allow women to speak with a solicitor in confidence, free of charge. This broadens legal access for women who maybe be in very upsetting and difficult situations. The service is vital for many women who may be unable to leave the house or who are having their income controlled by a partner. As a student volunteer, I help the solicitor take notes for the case management system, and sometimes help with research. The variety of issues that appear in the helpline are vast and the calls are always different. The training sessions we had to attend at the beginning of the year were designed to help us understand some of these topics in more depth.’’

Furthermore, reflecting on her experience Rebecca notes:

“the prevalence of domestic abuse and gender-based violence in Scotland is something that took me a while to get my head around. There are areas in which the law is lacking still, and it is in these areas where the SWRC is trying to enforce positive change. I am honoured to be a part of this collaboration and would encourage other clinic members to take part if they are ever given the opportunity.”

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My First Year at Strathclyde Law Clinic

Chloe Docherty, a first year LLB student, has recently joined the Law Clinic in our newest intake 2019/2020 and has written the following article about her experience so far:

“After a written online application and an interview, I was delighted and honoured to find out that I had become an advisor at the Law Clinic of Strathclyde. Shortly after, I participated in the training. This was extremely helpful and covered a large range of topics. For example, we received training on how to approach meeting your first client and things you can make them do to feel at ease, such as body language. We also learned about Data Protection and client confidentiality.

Chloe Docherty, student advisor at the University of Strathclyde Law Clinic

“When the opportunity arose to get my first case I jumped at it. The Law Clinic has an incredible atmosphere. When first entering I felt anxious.  However, everyone in the Law Clinic is there to help other people and are very kind. Immediately after introducing myself to everyone I knew that I could approach anyone at the Law Clinic for advice. The initial interview was the first part of my new case. It entailed my co-advisors and I listening to the client explain their case. I learned that one of the most important factors in an interview is to make the client feel as comfortable as possible. As it is already a difficult time for them, it is vital that they feel that you are engaging with them and they can trust you with their issue.

“I faced some challenges as well as learning a lot as my first case moved forward. As the case was on an employment issue, I became more familiar with employment law and the tribunal process. However, one of the challenges I faced was being honest with the client on the probability of their case being successful and attempting to handle this in the most sensitive way possible. I found this difficult but the training provided helped me in understanding that different approaches may suit different people. The Law Clinic has helped me not only learn about different subject matter and knowledge, but it has taught me about myself, such as time management skills, how to approach sensitive situations and how to work as part of a team. I look forward to taking on more cases within the Law Clinic.

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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 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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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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