A Day in the Life of a Summer Student: Liam McKay

Clients’ problems don’t stop during the holidays, and neither does the Law Clinic.

As a Firm Co-Ordinator, I oversee my firm’s case work during the summer break. With most of my firm’s student advisors away from university until September, I’ve stepped in to handle their cases. Picking up ongoing cases halfway through can be challenging, but it is always deeply rewarding to ensure that all our clients are offered the best possible service.

The Law Clinic could not function as it does without summer students: they allow us to continue to be able to offer our full range of services even when the academic year is finished.

In addition to existing cases, we also work hard to accept as many new clients as we can. Without the added burdens of essays or studying for exams, I’ve had a lot more time to focus on casework. I am currently working on eleven cases and have dealt with housing, employment and consumer rights’ disputes. From a personal perspective, it has been a great opportunity to build up practical experience.

The rest of the summer team are fantastic and it has been a privilege to be part of such a hardworking group of like-minded students. Access to justice is incredibly important to me, and I know that my time as a summer student will turn me into a better lawyer.

A Day in the Life of a Summer Student: Ben Brown

In order to ensure that the Clinic can run at full capacity during the university holiday period, we hire a number of part time ‘Summer Students’ to staff the Clinic. These students are typically funded through one of our partnerships or by one of the law firms that support the Clinic. This year we have been able to hire thirteen summer students, thanks in part to the support of the University’s Alumni Fund, the Refugee Survival Trust, David Stirling and the Scottish Women’s Right Centre.

In the latest in a series of articles written by our Summer Students, Ben Brown describes a typical day.

Being a summer student can be challenging when trying to balance commitments, but is extremely satisfying.

I spend most of my time responding to online queries, as I am the Online Project Co-Ordinator. It is my responsibility to ensure that all online case enquiries are distributed amongst advisors and are dealt with as efficiently as possible. We aim to respond to clients within fifteen working days (even during summer), so the response timetable can be quite tight. Advisors carry out the legal research which is then checked by our supervision team. The project is vital in letting us stream our services and I am proud to be responsible for it. It lets us help people by giving them the legal information they need, even if they are far away. I’m  fortunate to have my deputy, Hannah Wilson, who provides a great deal of support.

Alongside responding to online enquiries, I have spent the summer dealing with a wide range of issues as a summer case worker. I have advised clients on employment, housing and consumer issues. I think that direct client contact and advice and representation is at the core of what we do, and it is a real privilege to continue helping with this over the summer break. It has given me the opportunity to work independently, as well as a team, and has been a fantastic learning experience. Summer students are a tight knit group, and we are great at sharing knowledge and expertise and generally helping each other out.

Continuing the Clinic’s work over summer is a real honour and a pleasure.

SULCN Conference 2017

On the 7th June, Glasgow Caledonian University hosted the 6th annual Scottish University Law Clinic Network (SULCN) Conference. SULCN is an initiative that raises awareness of student law clinics across Scotland. The conference featured speakers such as Employment Judge Shona Simon, Mungo Bovey QC and Brian Inkster, and particularly focused on how law clinics can use technology to improve access to justice in Scotland. The University of Strathclyde Law Clinic’s Donald Nicolson OBE gave a plenary address at the end of the event, during which he noted the benefits of embedding law clinics in university curriculums and warned against clinics’ focusing on student priorities, rather than client ones. 

Law Clinic Student Advisor Scott MacDonald attended the conference and managed to take part in workshops held throughout the day:

Which workshops did you attend during the day?

I attended the mock employment tribunal run by Blackadders as I may have to participate in an employment tribunal at some point in the future: either as a student adviser for the law clinic or as a practicing solicitor. I found it very stimulating, and enjoyed watching lawyers cross-examine witnesses.  Afterwards, I took part in the Challenging the Status Quo workshop. I have an interest in seeing how the law is adapting to technology and what this means for us as future lawyers.”

 Which speakers did you listen to?

“There were a number of interesting speakers. Mungo Bovey QC’s keynote address on how technology affects all of our lives was especially thought-provoking.

 At the Challenging the Status Quo workshop, solicitors such as Aamer Anwar and Philip Hannay answered questions on the importance of technology in legal practice (something which can be applied equally to clinics), and also mentioned that they would be more likely to consider applicants for internships and traineeships if they were tech-savvy and spoke about this in their CVs.”

 Was the conference a valuable learning experience?

“Yes. Mungo spoke about advocates’ ability to provide legal representation to law clinic clients, which was interesting, and there were interesting discussions on new technologies and apps which seek to assist people understand and vindicate their rights.”

You can find out more about the event through Malcolm Combe’s Storify below:

Record number of CLLB graduates in 2017

Fergus Lawrie and Hannah Grace

17 students graduated from the University of Strathclyde  on the 26 June with a Clinical LLB degree, including 9 students who will graduate with Honours. This will be the largest cohort of CLLB graduates since the degree’s inception in 2011.

The CLLB is an innovative degree path that allows our student advisors to integrate their Clinic activities with their academic learning as part of their LLB. The University of Strathclyde is one of the only universities in UK to offer students this opportunity at an undergraduate level.

Fergus Lawrie, who is graduating this year with a First Class Honours degree, tells us more about his experience of studying the CLLB:

I started my degree in 2013 and was immediately drawn to the Law Clinic. The chance to use the skills and knowledge from my degree to help those struggling to access justice was something that really appealed to me. When I found out that there was the opportunity to focus my studies in LLB classes on my experiences working in the Clinic, I was hooked.

The CLLB allowed me to study several areas of law in the context of my clients’ cases. It became abundantly clear that the law in textbooks and the lecture theatre is by no means reflected in practise. Additionally, I had the chance to develop more fully the practical skills I gained from working on real-life cases, such as negotiation and advocacy.

Throughout the degree I was encouraged to reflect on the ethics of law in practise as well as the role that law plays in our society. I am now much more attuned to ethical issues and aware of the need for equal access to the law alongside social justice. This passion and awareness helped me to discover areas of law that I would not have otherwise considered studying, particularly at Honours level, and become more engaged with my studies in doing so.

The emphasis of the Clinic in my studies pushed me not only to get more involved in the Clinic casework, but also in getting involved with the Clinics’ development in striving for access to justice. I was able to do this in developing and managing our Small Business Law Unit, targeting a new area of legal need and now assisting with overall strategic development as Student Director.

The Clinic and the CLLB have been an integral part of my time studying law at the University of Strathclyde in creating a truly engaging, rewarding and unforgettable university experience. I am indebted to both for driving my passion for the legal profession generally, as well as for using the law to make a difference.

Whilst the slightly different world of commercial practice awaits me after the Diploma, I am certain that the impact of the CLLB on me will be put to good use and will shape my career for the better. The CLLB and the Clinic are creating a generation of Scots lawyers who care about social justice and want to do something about it. This is something that I am incredibly proud and grateful to be a part of.

Miami Law Clinic Exchange

For the third year, the University of Strathclyde Law Clinic sent four students to the Health Rights Clinic at the Miami School of Law in Florida.

Ben Brown, Jennifer Rowlinson, Beth Kelly and Miranda Hughes all travelled to America to learn about access to justice and discover more about our sister clinic’s work across the Atlantic.

The Miami clinic deals with health rights as well as immigration work and the four students sat in on interviews with clients during their exchange. Beth Kelly stated that, “It was an eye-opening experience which highlighted the problems many Americans and immigrants have in obtaining medical care and assistance.” As well as sitting in on client interviews, the students took part in deciding which clients the Health Rights Clinic can take on. Beth described this as giving her an insight into the laws which govern welfare access and immigration opportunities in Florida. The four also saw work being carried out at the South Florida Aids Network. The SFAN provides advocacy for people with HIV/AIDs.

Ben stated that our clinics “differ markedly” from each other, but that “it was an interesting process to observe.” The Miami clinic only takes on 15 case advisors per academic year, and their level of supervision is more resource intensive than our model. Ben stated that this allowed him to study different approaches to securing access to justice for clients: “it taught us about a society with different problems, and allowed us to see a different way of working.” He noted that the Miami clinic’s approach towards vulnerable clients would provide a helpful example to some of our own work, such as the immigration project.

Ben said that the trip was informative as well as being good fun, and recommended it to other advisors within the clinic. Beth agreed, saying: “The exchange program was a once in a lifetime opportunity which I was very proud to be a part of.”

Professor Donald Nicolson OBE commented:

“It is very pleasing to see an exchange that was first put in place three years ago continue to go from strength to strength, producing an ever higher quality of new ideas to be used in the two clinics. As a Clinic with relatively limited resources, we owe a huge debt of gratitude to the University of Strathclyde Law School, who cover the costs of this exchange and without whom it could not go ahead.”

You can read more here.

Law Clinic Student Advisor Receives National Recognition

Law Clinic Student Advisor Roisin Donnelly received national recognition for the contribution she has made to the Law Clinic at this year’s LawWorks and Attorney General Student Pro Bono Awards. Roisin finished runner up in her category for Best Contribution by an Individual Student.

The award ceremony was held on Wednesday 26 April at the Houses of Parliament and was the eleventh annual LawWorks & Attorney General Student Awards. The Awards celebrate the best pro bono activities undertaken by law students and law schools as well as the positive impact of those activities.

Commenting on her success, Roisin remarked:

It was an honour even to be shortlisted for the award, and particularly to be the only student shortlisted from Scotland! It would be difficult to pick a highlight of my time with the Law Clinic over the last five years, but hearing my name read out as Runner Up in recognition of my work with the Clinic, and against such excellent candidates, would certainly be at the top. I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who wrote such lovely words for my nomination – reading those would alone have been enough reward.

It is really important that law students everywhere continue not to pass by those most in need. It was extremely inspiring to meet those from universities across the UK who attended the awards and to see the many ways in which Clinics continue to help those most in need.

 

New Supervisor for the University of Strathclyde Law Clinic

This month saw the latest addition to the Law Clinic team as Susan Fallone began her role as one of the Law Clinic’s Supervisors.

Prior to becoming a solicitor, Susan worked in the social security department for nearly thirteen years. During this time she also worked as an advocate for adults with dementia, training as a mediator at that time. She then worked as the In Court Adviser at Edinburgh Sheriff Court for over five years, where she provided legal advice and representation to unrepresented party litigants in a wide range of areas including defending against local authority eviction actions, landlord/tenant disputes, debt actions, and raising/defending small claims and summary cause actions.

Susan also worked for East End and Castlemilk Law Centres (covering criminal, housing, debt, employment, family law and social security tribunals), in private practice (covering criminal and family law) and finally in-house for local authorities (specialising in child law, but also covering other areas of work such as employment, education, housing, clerking committees, and acting as legal adviser to the adoption and fostering panel).

When not working at the Clinic, Susan will split her time between working as a safeguarder for children in Court and Children’s Hearing proceedings and as a Justice of the Peace in the summary criminal courts in Edinburgh Sheriff Court.

Commenting on this appointment, Clinic Director Professor Donald Nicolson said:

“Susan will make an excellent addition to our current supervisory team and will help us maintain and enhance our services to the community. Welcome aboard Susan from all of us here at the Law Clinic.”

Resignation of Professor Donald Nicolson OBE

The Law Clinic is sad to announce that its founder and director, Professor Donald Nicolson OBE, will be leaving us in the coming months to take up a role at the University of Essex Law Clinic.

Donald joined Strathclyde in 2000, having previously  taught law at the Universities of Cape Town, Warwick, Reading and Bristol, where he set up the University of Bristol Law Clinic. In 2003, he would set the ball rolling on what would become the University of Strathclyde Law Clinic, where over the years he would work tirelessly alongside students and staff to transform a grand ambition conceived of whilst sitting on the grass outside the Lord Hope building into a practical reality that serves hundreds of clients a year.

Over the course of nearly 15 years, Law Clinic students have benefitted from Donald’s faith in student involvement which has allowed remarkable results with a relatively limited budget. Donald leaves the Clinic with a sophisticated infrastructure that will allow it to carry on providing an extraordinary level of service in ever more innovative ways.

Donald remarked:

“I am extremely proud of the Clinic, but also extremely grateful to all the students, staff and supporters whose enthusiasm, initiative and dedication have ensured that the Clinic has been by far the greatest achievement of my professional career. I thank you all and hope that we will keep in touch once I leave Strathclyde in a few months.

Kate Laverty, Deputy Law Clinic Director added:

Donald leaving will be a change that is felt all through the Clinic. His experience in Law Clinics in the UK and in South Africa have made him the driving force behind the Law Clinic. He brings out the best in our student volunteers: entrusting them with positions of responsibility which allow the Clinic to benefit most from their volunteerist spirit. Beyond all else, Donald has been a great friend to many in the Clinic, and we sincerely hope that he will be no stranger!”