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.

Third Year Anniversary of the Clinic’s Online Advice Clinic

 

The Law Clinic launched its pioneering online advice service in August 2014 and, since then, has experienced 3 years of continued growth and success. Since 2014, our online advice portal has dealt with 365 cases with 127 of those being handled in 2015/2016 alone.

Around 40 student volunteers work on the project throughout the academic year: providing preliminary advice and signposting services to our clients quickly and effectively. This allows the Clinic to help those in need across the entire country, and not just in the Glasgow area.

Ben Brown, Online Advice Project Co-Ordinator commented:

“This is my second year in charge of the project, and I hope that I can help to continue its good work. It provides the Law Clinic with opportunities to widen access to justice across Scotland and it is one of the most dynamic and proactive projects in the Clinic. I would like to thank my predecessors Andrew Ross, Grant Storrar and Laura Russell for their efforts in laying the foundations of this successful project.”

The Law Clinic is very grateful to the University of Strathclyde’s Alumni Fund for its support during the project’s pilot.

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.