Strathclyde Law Clinic students get first hand experience on Miami Exchange

Four students from the University of Strathclyde Law Clinic have recently returned from an educational exchange with the University of Miami Law Clinic.

Kirstie Webb, Michael Ballantyne, Laura Cheng and Alice Bowman spent four days in May absorbing the work conducted by the students of Miami’s Clinic.

All had different reasons for wanting to participate in the exchange. Kirstie said: “Having researched the Miami Health Rights Clinic I wanted to see how a specialist clinic operated in practice. I also thought that it would be a great opportunity to meet new people and experience a different type of clinic and university life.”

Laura said: “I was really interested in learning about another legal system (especially the mechanics of another Clinic in another jurisdiction worked) and I had never been to America before, so I thought it would be an ideal opportunity to apply for the exchange.”

Michael said: “I had done a research project on the Clinic last year and wanted to develop this by seeing how another Clinic operates. My classes in 4th year also included very ethical and clinical subjects which made me more interested in the Clinic from an ethical perspective.”

Arriving on Sunday 20th May, they were treated to a welcome dinner at Montys Raw Bar then headed to the hotel for the night. The students were introduced to the Health Rights Clinic, which is a specialist clinic, time was then spent on finishing off presentations.

On Tuesday May 22nd, the students got the chance to see client intake at the South Florida Aids Network where they sat in on client meetings. Laura said: “I really enjoyed sitting in on Miami’s Clinic’s equivalent of initial interviews at the hospital; their clinic specialises in health rights, immigration and adjustment issues, social security and benefits, which I thought was really interesting, and something a little different to Strathclyde.” The group had some spare time in the evening to explore the sights and sounds of Miami.

On the last day of the exchange the students experienced the cultural side of Miami. They took in the street art/graffiti on the Wynwood Art Walk. They had a farewell dinner at Tap Tap Restaurant and enjoyed a last night with the students.

All of the students who attended felt that it is vital for Strathclyde Law Clinic to have this connection with their Miami counterparts. With the Miami Clinic dealing with issues that Strathclyde do not. Michael said: “We rarely tackle issues similar to what Miami deal with. Miami clients were HIV positive, had gunshot wounds, no access to healthcare and allows a sharp perspective to be taken when we come back to Strathclyde.”

Kirstie said: “A relationship between the clinics is important to allow students to experience how a different type of clinic works in practice. The two clinics are extremely different and I think it’s a great way to see the benefits of having a specialist law clinic.”

Laura said: “I think it’s important because it really emphasises the importance of Law Clinics all around the world – it’s good to have an awareness of other countries/people who face different problems and how clinics like Miami and Strathclyde’s can help.”

The experience has opened the eyes of the students to what could be incorporated into Clinic life at Strathclyde. Michael said: “The Miami Clinic appears to have a lot more outreach exposure. They physically go out into communities, hospitals, clinics and speak to clients. Whereas at Strathclyde, minus the IAC’s (which now only happen in the Clinic) and other small projects, we do not specifically go out into a community, hospital etc. with a specific aim.”

Kirstie said: “The Miami Clinic operates extremely differently from ours. For starters, the students are only part of the clinic for one semester and get credits for their work. It’s a specialist clinic meaning students participating in the Health Rights Clinic represent multiple clients in different legal matters related to health. This contrasts to the generalist clinic structure that we follow.”

 

SULCN 2018: A STUDENTS EXPERIENCE

A recent event attended by representatives of the Clinic was the annual Scottish University Law Clinic Network Conference (SULCN).

The conference was held in Dundee, and was attended by new Student Director James Anderson, and Director of the University of Strathclyde Law Clinic, Kate Laverty.

The afternoon was filled with passionate speakers who all wanted to share their ideas and promote the general positive progression of law clinics across Scotland. One main theme of this year’s conference was how ever more important technology is becoming. This discussion led to ways to learn from other fields and help law clinics provide even better access to justice.

The opening keynote address was provided by Mike Dailly of Govan Law Centre who talked about how to use new technology and partnership working to find solutions to social problems, and how the law must be used to fight for social change. With a particular emphasis on ‘self-help legal kits’, providing the public with the legal information they need.

Malcolm Combe and Pippa Robertson discussed the Scottish University Land Unit (a partnership with Development Trusts Association Scotland and law students, which is currently running a pilot at the University of Aberdeen). The Scottish University Land Unit or ‘SULU’, aims to support community bodies in exercising their community rights in respect of land.

Sarah Webb informed us of an exciting partnership between University of Abertay students and Police Scotland seeking to resolve cold cases of missing persons; before Malcom Combe returned to discuss the new “pro bono expenses orders” which can be used where someone has been represented in legal proceedings for free.

Alison Atack, the new president of the Law Society of Scotland, delivered the closing address, and the society also generously supported the event. Proceedings on the day were co-ordinated by Liz Comerford of the University of Dundee.

James said: “The most valuable advice I gleaned from the afternoon can be summarised in one word: simplicity. Now, more than ever, the general public is expected to self-represent for parts if not all of the legal process.

In a point stressed eloquently by the new President of the Law Society, Alison Atack, a crucial skill that every student should develop is the ability to explain legal issues and give advice simply and effectively.

I was delighted to share the progress of the Employment Tribunal project currently under development at the University of Strathclyde Law Clinic and felt reassured that the vision behind this style of project is shared with Law Clinics across Scotland.

It was fantastic to make the acquaintance of so many enthusiastic people. I would encourage all students with an interest in access to justice to attend next year.”

SULCN is an annual event which provides Law Clinics across Scotland the opportunity to share experiences, ideas, relevant news and developments and the opportunity to network.

 

New Project: Housing Advice Under One Roof

“The Law Clinic is delighted to announce its latest project – Housing Advice Under One Roof – which aims to explore engagement with the newly established Housing and Property Chamber of the First Tier Tribunal for Scotland.

Throughout the summer, research will be undertaken in order to understand this new remedies forum and the changes arising from its creation. This research will not only help facilitate vital training for Law Clinic staff and volunteers but will also result in the development of accessible resources for those seeking to raise legal proceedings through this new forum.

The Law Clinic would like to thank the SafeDeposits Scotland Trust for its support of this project which will help the Law Clinic in supporting clients and increase the public’s knowledge of how they can seek redress for housing issues.”

Law Clinic hosts Insightful Refugee Festival Event

The Law Clinic’s Immigration Unit recently hosted a public education event as part of the Refugee Festival Scotland 2018 entitled ‘Please Believe Me!’.

The well attended event was hosted by immigration unit coordinator, Hanan El-Atrash, and former student director, Fergus Lawrie.  The event kicked off with an introductory address to the guests and a general overview of the function of the Clinic and the role of the Immigration Unit. Following this was a dramatised version of a substantive asylum interview procedure, inspired by the genuine asylum interviews that clients of Strathclyde Law Clinic have undergone.

The performance showed the way in which Home Office caseworkers ask an asylum applicant questions about why they are claiming asylum, and the types of questions they are asked. This process can, in practice, take several hours, and the same questions often get asked in different ways.

At the Law Clinic event, this exercise was conducted through interactive forum theatre. This allowed the audience to stop and interact with the dramatisation as it progressed. This saw the audience deal with a variety of problems and misunderstandings that arose because of the nature of the interview process itself. These misunderstandings very often go on to affect the credibility of those seeking asylum and can lead to the rejection of an asylum claim even when the person is genuinely in need of international protection.

This difficult exercise was showcased by talented members of the Law Clinic, Immigration Unit Deputies, James Burns and Agata Soroka and Welfare Project Manager, Kuda Chinyani. They portrayed a version of the Grimm Brothers’ tale of Snow White, depicting a young German girl fleeing persecution from her home country and is forced to rely on the kindness of strangers to seek refuge in a neighbouring state. Whilst clearly fictional, this version of the story carried many of the hallmarks of a typical case that the Home Office would encounter.

The second half of the two-hour event highlighted information regarding the Destitute Asylum Seeker Service (DASS) project, and the role that the Law Clinic plays in that project alongside its partner organisations, which include Refugee Survival Trust, Scottish Refugee Council and British Red Cross. This talk not only drew attention to the daily problems faced by destitute asylum seekers across the country, but also how organisations like our Immigration Unit are committed to helping people deal with these issues. There was also a discussion on what more could be done to assist.  

The event was a success and the Law Clinic was honoured to be able to contribute in the Refugee Festival Scotland 2018. The objective was to tackle myths and misinformation about those navigating the asylum process and to explain how many people end up living for years in destitution in the UK. Those who attended appreciated the opportunity to learn and to discuss the challenges faced by destitute asylum seekers, whose situation is often explained politically but rarely discussed factually.

Keep your eyes peeled for the next Immigration Unit Event on our social media pages.  

 

 

 

Law Clinic participates in innovative ‘Free Advice for Our Times’ event

The Law Clinic recently took part in an exciting event at The Fruitmarket Gallery in Edinburgh entitled ‘Free Advice for Our Times’.

The event comprised a day of free advice and information, allowing people to find out more about accessing their legal rights in a welcoming, collaborative environment. Several lawyers, charities and advice organisations attended the event. This included Shelter Scotland, The Rock Trust CHAI Edinburgh, Cyrenians and One Day Without Us.

This event ran alongside an exhibition of artwork by award-winning Glasgow artist, Jacqueline Donachie. The event aimed to combine practical advice with an artistic exploration into the way we support ourselves in society, a common theme in Donachie’s work.

As part of this event, students from the Law Clinic, Karen Yuill and Michelle Young, gave a presentation outlining what services law clinics across Scotland provide and explaining the breadth of legal issues we can assist with.  Acting Director, Kate Laverty, who attended the event commented:

“I am delighted that the Law Clinic was invited to participate in this event and explain the fantastic work of law clinics across the country. It was also great to speak to the number of organisations represented at the event doing fantastic work to tackle a number of social issues. It is heart-warming to see the number of services being provided across Scotland to help those in our society who really need it the most.”

A team of our student advisors then presented a video sampling our new initiative that will assist lay representatives in the Employment Tribunal.  A team of students are currently researching, developing, and creating videos outlining Employment Tribunal procedures. These will be made available as an online resource and will benefit several Employment Tribunal claimants who cannot afford a solicitor and face the daunting prospect of representing themselves.

This initiative is kindly supported by the University of Strathclyde Alumni Fund. The Alumni Fund donations are provided by graduates and friends of the University. This money is used to create opportunities for students across the University, including the opportunity to use their skills and knowledge to benefit others.

Student Advisor, Eilidh Campbell, who also attended the event said:

“This event was a great opportunity to network with organisations that share our values and aims. In particular, we met with organisations that we haven’t worked with before and who can provide additional services to our clients. This will enable us to provide better support to clients in future, especially with problems that are better dealt with by specialist, targeted organisations.”

 

New Cohort of Scottish Women’s Rights Centre Volunteers

The Scottish Women’s Rights Centre is delighted to welcome the 2017/2018 cohort of volunteers to the service.

The Centre is a partnership project between Rape Crisis Scotland, the University of Strathclyde Law Clinic and Just Right Scotland. Volunteers from the University of Strathclyde Law Clinic assist solicitor from Just Rights Scotland with staffing the helplines as well as case work and administrative support.

In the academic year 2017/2018 the SWRC recruited ten new volunteers from the Law Clinic.

Alice Bowman, the SWRC Volunteer Co-ordinator said;

“We are delighted to see so many students volunteering at the Centre. This is the largest amount of volunteers we have recruited so far, which goes to show that the SWRC is going from strength to strength. Not only do the volunteers assist with promoting access to justice for women experiencing gender based violence, but they are able to develop their skills and expertise. In addition, volunteering with the SWRC allows the next generation of lawyers to gain a deep understanding of the dynamics of gender based violence, which we hope they will be able to take into their career.”

One of the new SWRC volunteers, Abbie McKenna said:

“Being a volunteer at the SWRC gives you invaluable experience and is rewarding in a number of ways. It has made me aware of gender based violence and has allowed me to develop skills in dealing with vulnerable people which is invaluable for a career in law.”

In addition, Alana Turnbull, a student who has been volunteering with the SWRC for over a year said:

“The SWRC is vital, not only to provide support to those suffering gender based violence but also to allow students like myself to gain an insight and a platform to help.”

The Scottish Women’s Rights Centre Helpline runs every Tuesday evening from 6pm – 9pm, Wednesday afternoon from 1.30pm – 4.30pm and Friday morning from 10am – 1pm. Freephone: 08088 010 789. https://www.scottishwomensrightscentre.org.uk/

https://www.facebook.com/scottishwomensrightscentre/

Law Clinic Legacy: Professor Donald Nicolson OBE

A dawn of a new era emerged for the staff and students of the Clinic in September 2017 when we said goodbye to our esteemed founder, Professor Donald Nicolson.

After 14 years at the helm, Professor Nicolson moved down to Essex to start afresh and develop another successful clinic. Before he went, he reflected on his career so far and his time at University of Strathclyde Law Clinic.

Born in South Africa, Professor Nicolson began law school at 17. After working in a law firm in Johannesburg during one vacation, he decided the corporate route was not for him. Prof. Nicolson said: “After university I was told I could be either a teacher or a lawyer so, after qualifying, I taught part-time for 9 months. I loved it. At that stage, I thought I was going to become an academic.”

Professor Nicolson’s first interaction with a law clinic happened during his time in university in South Africa. These encounters with people would be his grounding for his future work and clinics.

He said: “It was the early 1980s. I was highly radicalised by going to university and felt I needed to participate in some way in responding to the injustice of apartheid. My options seemed to be getting involved in student politics or in the law clinic. In my second year I volunteered in the law clinic. I was taken out one night into the townships, I spent the first evening shadowing. From then on, I was on my own.

“My most memorable case was a black person being charged with ‘hawking’ (peddling goods on the floor)  in a ‘white area’. I phoned the police station and said that a mistake had been made and the charge was dropped. I had a definite feeling that you couldn’t be a privileged person and just take part in society.”

In 1984 Professor Nicolson moved to the UK and began to study for his PhD at Cambridge University. He said: “At the time I knew when I left South Africa that I may never return. It was a traumatic thing. The idea was to assess whether I could live here permanently. There was always an intention of not going back because of military service.” And so it proved. Professor Nicolson applied for and obtained political asylum on the grounds of conscientious objection to serving in the South African Defence Force.

While teaching at Bristol, Professor Nicolson started his first law clinic in 1996. Recalling his first foray into leading a clinic he said: “There were around 80 students and we ran from my office. I had an answerphone and a filing cabinet, but our resources were very limited. We used classrooms to interview clients and I had a big enough office for committee meetings.

“There were some ex-solicitors who were reticent, but the rest of the school said that it was better than nothing.”

Clinics are important as a way of giving back to society. Prof. Nicolson said: “Society has given me an enormous amount of privilege: my gender, the colour of my skin, my class. I think you must do as much as you can to give something back. You must equalise the accidents of birth. Clinics matter generally because people need access to justice. You have students with skills and time and you are putting them together with people who need them. You are also producing better lawyers for the future, in terms of both their values and their skills.”

On his new adventure in Essex, Professor Nicolson is looking forward to getting more students involved in providing access to justice for the local community. Developing a clinic would seem like a daunting task to some, but not to Professor Nicolson.

He said: “There is a big difference between our start at Strathclyde and Essex. At Strathclyde, the Clinic had to prove itself as it developed. With Essex, I am starting with a more established foundation. We’ll go through the same journey, but more quickly. The most important thing is getting the ethos right first. Students need to get their hands dirty and they need to own their clinic. What I bring is experience.

“I would also like to get to a point where all students who would like to be involved in pro bono could do so – whether it be within the Clinic or by some secondment.”

New Cohort of Case Workers

The University of Strathclyde Law Clinic recently concluded its Initial Advisor Training. A total of 61 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, Academic Director of the Diploma in Professional Legal Practice at the university, and professional ethics lessons with Dr 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.

New members were given the opportunity to meet each other, and were enthusiastic and hard-working.

A member of the new cohort, Jesse Frohlich reflected: ‘The initial advisor training was great for a number of reasons. Firstly, it was informative and really made us feel confident in what we were expected to do as part of the Law Clinic. It also gave us a lot of helpful guidance and tips that would help us in both our legal education and future employment. Lastly, it was a lot of fun. We were divided into groups and in our groups we bonded and have become good friends which is great for students who may be new to university or Glasgow.’

Training Officer Roisin Flatman said that: ‘Training was a great success and we would like to extend thanks to those who helped out with training, including staff and existing members.’

Student Director Fergus Lawrie added: ‘This year’s Initial Advisor Training, organised by Roisin Flatman, was a resounding success. We continued to develop the training programme, better equipping our new recruits to take on their first cases and fight for our clients. Most importantly, our new members performed exceptionally, showing great promise. It is wonderful to see that the future of the clinic and that our clients are in safe hands.’

Recruiting: Case Supervisor

Advisors interviewing a clientThe award-winning and highly successful University of Strathclyde Law Clinic is looking for a capable and committed lawyer to supervise and train students who provide free legal advice and representation to members of the community who cannot afford a solicitor but who do not qualify for legal aid.

The post is for a twelve month fixed-term, 0.50 FTE. Appointments will be pro rata on the salary scale of £31,604- 38,833 pa for a FTE.

The successful applicant must be qualified as a Scottish solicitor and will have relevant legal practice experience, ideally in a litigation role, and good inter-personal and communication skills, an ability to teach and mentor students and a passion for enhancing access to justice.

Informal enquiries about the post can be directed to Kate Laverty, Law Clinic Director (kathleen.laverty@strath.ac.uk).

Formal interviews for this post are likely to be held on Monday, 30 October 2017.

For full details, click here.

Where Are They Now: Michael Dempsey

Going to the Bar was my plan ever since my first visit to Parliament House, just over a month after starting my law degree. The decision to pursue this career path immediately after completing my traineeship was perhaps an unusual one, but one which I do not regret for one minute.

Law wasn’t my first degree (I first studied politics) but after taking a few law classes as part of my politics degree, I knew it was what I wanted to do. I threw myself into my studies, volunteering for just about everything going (including the Law Clinic). I could not have asked for a greater experience. When it was all said and done, I had appeared in front of Sheriffs, Employment Judges, and even an English High Court judge (in the Employment Appeal Tribunal).

Next, I completed my traineeship at MacRoberts in Glasgow. Here I gained experience in a wide range of commercial litigation in both the Sheriff Court and the Court of Session, as well as in property and construction law. While litigation is important as an advocate, often it is the non-contentious matters that teach you the most about the inner working of a particular area of law.

The final step on my journey so far came in form of devilling. This essentially consisted of nine months shadowing my devilmasters, John MacGregor, Malcolm McGregor, and Thomas Ross. They took me under their respective wings, and ensured that I learned not only from them but from all the very best advocates in the country. Faculty is, after all, a very collegiate place.

I have learned a lot along the way from many people but I credit my time in the Law Clinic as the experience which shaped my views on the importance of access to justice for all. Yes, justice is the right of all members of society but too many barriers to justice exist for too many people. The Law Clinic works extremely hard to remove as many of these barriers as possible and it has been the greatest influence on me as a lawyer, a litigator, and an advocate.