LAW CLINIC EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE 2021-2022

Now that the 2020-2021 Academic Year is officially over it’s time to welcome the 2021-2021 Executive Committee.

Over the past month, interviews took place to recruit the Law Clinic’s 2021-2022 Executive Committee. The Law Clinic received applications from students from all years with all candidates showing great enthusiasm.

Students are imperative 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 continued uncertainty.

Our Elected Committee Members remain in post until the next AGM which is normally in October.

Commenting on the new Executive Committee, Law Clinic Student Directors had this to say:

Rebecca Dyer (Student Director) said:

“After an extremely rewarding and invaluable experience as a Student Advisor, Firm Coordinator and Deputy Student Director, I am elated to be taking on the role of Student Director. Being part of the Law Clinic has been the highlight of my university career, and as the 2021-2022 Academic Year marks my final year of academic study, this role signifies the end of my journey and will allow me to give something back to the Law Clinic. To outgoing Executive Committee members, I cannot thank you enough for all of your hard work, support and contributions to the Law Clinic, as well as your passion and drive in providing access to justice. I wish you all the very best for the future! To new and existing Executive Committee members, I am delighted to be working with you all, and I very much look forward to collaborating with you in the year ahead. I am extremely confident that this new Executive Committee will ensure the Law Clinic’s future development overall, always keeping our passion for providing access to justice at the centre of our mission and reaching as many people in need of our service as possible.”

Jordan Hamlett (Student Director) said:

Firstly, I would like to say a big thank you to the outgoing Executive Committee members, including but not limited to last year’s Student Director, Karen Yuill, and I wish everyone the absolute best in your future endeavours. Secondly, it isn’t easy to put into words as to how excited I am for the upcoming year and to work with the new Executive Committee members and the members who retained their position for another year. All the members on the Executive Committee are incredibly passionate about providing access to justice, and I do not doubt that the new and remaining members will significantly contribute to the progressing of the Law Clinic so that the clinic can provide access to justice to a broader community.”

The 2021-2022 Executive Committee is made up of the following people:

Student Directors: Jordan Hamlett and Rebecca Dyer

IAC Coordinator: Cara Hope

Deputy IAC Coordinator: Alanna Sommerville

Online Project Manager: Laura Hart

Training Officer: Mhairi Strachan

Deputy Training Officer: Sophie Rook

CCU Coordinator: Caoimhean Mac Dhorchaidh

Prisons Project Manager: Gregor Henderson

Deputy Prisons Project Manager: Katie Gardener

Firm Coordinator (Firm A): Nicola Maguire

Firm Coordinator (Firm B): Carly Morrison

Firm Coordinator (Firm C): Martin Gallacher

Firm Coordinator (Firm D): Carmen Rowat

Firm Coordinator (Firm E): TBC

Firm Coordinator (Firm F): Daniel Leyden

SWRC Coordinator: Erin Connor

The Asylum Project Co-Coordinator: TBC

Funding Officer: TBC

Communications Officer: TBC

Elected Committee Members:

  • Ronan Leslie
  • Laura Nicol
  • Karen Lee-Johnston
  • Youssef Abdul Azeez
  • Rosie McIntosh
  • Adriana Cavallaro
  • Ashlie Henderson
  • Jonathon McNamara
  • Caitlin McAllister
  • Peter Akehurst

University of Strathclyde Law Clinic: Carer’s Group Blog Post

Law Clinic Student Advisor, Laura Nicol, writes about her experience providing Strathclyde Carer’s Group with two information sessions on Power of Attorneys and Guardianship Orders alongside fellow Student Advisor, Darya Burton.

(Law Clinic Student Advisors, Laura Nicol and Darya Burton)

Over the past two weeks, Darya Burton and I were given the chance to provide Strathclyde Carer’s Group with two information sessions on Power of Attorneys (POAs) and Guardianship Orders (GOs). The group had received similar information sessions in the past from previous clinic members and they were keen for further sessions as long-standing members of the Carer’s Group often spoke of how good and useful it had been.

Darya had a little experience with the subject matter from her working in a law firm and I had basic knowledge. However, we worked together to produce fresh PowerPoint slideshows by utilising previous PowerPoints we had in our database, extensive research and consulting supervisors. These two PowerPoints broke down the essential information in regard to POAs and GOs.

We decided to split the sessions into two, as the subjects are already easily confused and discussed as if they’re interchangeable which they aren’t. We thought this would also help separate the two in the listeners minds as there was also a lot of information in each presentation and we thought it a bit much to absorb all at once.

For those who are unaware of the difference between POA and GO, POA can only be granted by someone who has capacity, and only usually ‘kicks in’ once they have lost capacity (often described as an ‘insurance policy’). Whereas a GO is the process you have to go through to be able to make a decision on another person’s behalf if they have either already lost capacity, or never had capacity as an adult. Both POA and GO are governed by the Adults with Incapacity (Scotland) Act 2000 and there is also a useful guide to the act which can be found here if anyone is looking for further information: https://www.iapk.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/Adults-with-Incapacity-Short-Guide.pdf.

The presentations were received very well and brought up some very interesting and important conversations within the group. We thank the group for having us and we are glad they enjoyed it and found it useful. Their feedback was that:

“Both Laura and Darya were excellent, they presented very well with clear slides and information and were more than able to answer any questions which were sent their way. All in all a really great couple of sessions which all attendees found useful and informative”.

For other clinic members who find themselves doing a presentation in the future here are useful pointers;

  • Use it as a learning experience – researching things you don’t know about will only help your research skills and knowledge.
  • Keep the slides simple – remember that who you are presenting to may know little about the law and that is probably why you are doing a presentation for them.
  • Avoid using green, pink or red fonts or backgrounds – these colours in particular often make it harder for people with dyslexia to read and view the information.
  • Use clinic resources where possible – there is always usually something on the database which will be helpful!

Laura Nicol, Student Advisor at the University of Strathclyde Law Clinic.

The Scottish Government Introduce The Management of Offenders (Scotland) Act 2019

Members of our Prisons Project and Criminal Convictions Unit write about the introduction of The Management of Offenders (Scotland) Act 2019 by the Scottish Government.

For the citizens of Scotland, with previous criminal convictions, Tuesday the 1st December 2020 was a landmark day. In an attempt to support ex-offenders, on the path to employment, the Scottish Government have introduced The Management of Offenders (Scotland) Act 2019.  This legislation amends provisions within the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 and will result in fewer convictions appearing on Disclosure Scotland checks, for people applying for jobs.

So, what is a spent conviction? When a court hands down a sentence, that sentence will appear on the offender’s criminal record. Depending on the nature of the offence, the offender, when applying for a job or a disclosure, is required to disclose any unspent criminal convictions. Unspent convictions are those convictions that have not yet reached the defined time period outlined by law when the offender no longer needs to disclose his/her offence(s) to an employer/ future employer.

So how does this legislation change things?

For non-custodial sentences the disclosure changes include:

  • For community payback orders, a reduction from five years to 12 months or the length of the order, whichever is longer;
  • For fines, a reduction from five years to 12 months;
  • An admonishment or absolute discharge will no longer need to be disclosed.

For custodial sentences, disclosure periods will be:

  • For sentences up to 12 months, the length of the sentence plus two years;
  • For sentences between 12 and 30 months, the length of the sentence plus four years;
  • For sentences between 30 and 48 months, the length of the sentence plus six years.

Offenders aged under 18 at time of conviction have the additional period reduced by half.

Over the next year these changes will have a major impact on the daily work of Strathclyde Law Clinic Prison Project Outreach Programme.  This programme sees law clinic volunteers interact with prisoners at Scotland HMP Low Moss Prison.  The programme helps educate and prepare prisoners for life after prison, including helping on the path to employment.

Speaking about the legislative developments in this area, Prison Project coordinator, Emelia Connor welcomed the positive steps, “”Having been involved with the prison project for the past 4 years and worked closely with HMP Low Moss, I am so relieved to see this change to the law and the positive impact it will have on ex-offenders. We look forward to continuing to work alongside the prison and informing as many ex-offenders about this momentous change to the law.”

The introduction of the new legislation has also been widely welcomed across the political, economic, and voluntary sector.

Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf highlighted the need for change: “Parliament agreed that current disclosure periods are too long. Employment and the skills, opportunities and hope that it brings, can support routes out of offending, thereby contributing to safer communities.”

‘Pressure Group Scotland’ believes it will have a positive impact. They see the Act as “good for business allowing access to a wider talent pool and the removal of some hiring barriers, employers in Scotland will be able to recruit more widely than ever before.”

Phil Martin is the founder of ‘Ex Seed’, a support service network for people with convictions. He believes the changes are long overdue, “I am pleased with the changes in Scotland of the Management Offenders Act 2019 which allow people to gain their freedom from the shadow of disclosure a little earlier than would have otherwise been the case. It is important that we give real weight to the “ex” in “ex-offender” so that it is not just individuals who see themselves as changed, but society which also allows people to leave their mistakes in the past and move on to live crime-free and fulfilling lives.”

Indeed these changes form part of a wider cultural change in society towards Ex-Offenders. In recent years, well known high street brands and corporations like Virgin Trains, Greggs, Timpson and Marks & Spencer have initiated programmes to rehabilitate ex-offenders and bring them back into the workplace.

Figures last year, for the Department of Justice in the UK, showed just 17% of ex-offenders get jobs upon release from prison, and of the 17%  around 9% are less likely to reoffend.

The new legislation forms part of a wider UK strategy in this area. In 2017 the UK Civil Service reaffirmed its ambition to become the most inclusive employer in the UK by 2020, through the publication of its ‘Diversity and Inclusion Strategy.’ More recently, in 2018, the Ministry of Justice published their ‘Education and Employment Strategy’, to create a system where each person with a criminal record is set on a path to employment from the outset.

A glance into the IACs’ past year

Law Clinic’s Initial Advice Clinics’ Coordinator, Cara Hope, writes about the IACs’ journey since the beginning of the pandemic.

The Law Clinic’s Initial Advice Clinics (IACs) take place every second Wednesday, in which, volunteer solicitors provide on-the-spot initial advice to clients in matters regarding housing, consumer, civil, and employment law. The IAC appointments are organised and led by students however it is the fabulous team of over twenty volunteer solicitors who provide excellent legal advice to clients.

At the start of the pandemic, a swift change was made from in-person IACs At the start of the pandemic, a swift change was made from in-person IACs to ‘Virtual IACs’. This change was made possible with the innovative thinking of a dedicated, longstanding volunteer solicitor, Paman Singh. Just as people all across the country began the journey of working remotely, the volunteer solicitors immediately got on board with the Virtual IACs. The swift adjustment to remote IACs ensured that access to justice continued which was particularly important during the difficult stages at the height of the pandemic.

Over the past year of Virtual IACs we have been able to assist clients across the entirety of Great Britain. From the Isle of Lewis to Jersey and everywhere in between, the IACs are more accessible than ever and as a result, so is access to justice. Clients have been overwhelmingly grateful for the assistance and advice provided by the remarkable solicitors week after week. Students within the Law Clinic have also greatly benefitted from the knowledge learnt by listening to and assisting the volunteer solicitors.

To top off the excellent year we have had, continuing the IACs in such To top off the excellent year we have had, continuing the IACs in such difficult circumstances, the IACs were shortlisted and ‘Highly Commended’ by the judges at the LawWorks and Attorney General Student ProBono Awards 2021. This was an amazing achievement as it was a very tough competition with many other outstanding pro bono services at law schools and law clinics being recognised. This achievement could not have been possible without the dedication and expertise of our student advisors and incredible volunteer solicitors. The Law Clinic extends a massive thank you to each student and volunteer solicitor for your time and expertise.

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University of Strathclyde Law Clinic: Advocacy Training Blog Post

Law Clinic Deputy Training Officer and student advisor, Sophie Rook, writes about the Advocacy Training event hosted by the Law Clinic and led by two solicitors from DAC Beachcroft.

(Deputy Training Officer and Student Advisor: Sophie Rook)

On the 14th of October 2020, the Law Clinic hosted an impressive and informative advocacy training event led by two solicitors from DAC Beachcroft. The tickets sold out quickly and everyone who attended enjoyed an insightful and engaging presentation and were also able to discuss advocacy skills with individuals who have first-hand experience in the profession. John Stringer, an ex-Law Clinic student, and Jamie Varney, who has extensive experience in both criminal and civil advocacy, were brilliant and shared their wealth of knowledge on how to prepare a case for court and approach cross-examination.

In the clinic, we exercise advocacy skills in cases which involve the Employment Tribunal, the SSSC, the First-tier Tribunal (Housing) and when dealing with Simple Procedure in the sheriff court. As such, this session was invaluable for all who were able to attend.

More generally, the afternoon provided a deeper understanding of the profession and also a sense of comfort that even seasoned professionals still get nervous attending court. One of our attendees, Catriona MacBean, thoroughly enjoyed the session and stated:

“John and Jamie were so lovely and engaging throughout the training. I felt very reassured when they said it is natural to feel nervous in court, even twenty years down the line.”

Overall, the session was a great success and a brilliant experience for all our attendees. We hope to provide more training like this throughout the year, not only to help improve our work in the clinic but also to build on our confidence and prepare us for working life.

University of Strathclyde Law Clinic: The Online Project

Our Online Project Manager, Francesca Pozzo, and Deputy Online Project Manager, Laura Hart, have written a blog post about our Online Project and detail how to seek assistance through our online advice service. 

What is The Online Project?

The Online Project is a free legal information and guidance service accessible through the Law Clinic website. Anyone can submit an enquiry online and will receive a response from one of our trained Student Advisors within just a few weeks. This service is intended to give some general guidance only and is ideal for people who cannot afford to consult a solicitor and cannot obtain legal aid but perhaps just need some initial guidance  regarding the legal aspects of an issue and/or an idea of their next steps towards resolution. The Online Project can help with a range of legal issues including, but not limited to, employment, housing/property, and consumer rights.

What happens when I submit an enquiry?

When we receive an enquiry, it is checked to ensure that it is suitable for an online response. Then a Student Advisor will be allocated to your case. They will apply their own knowledge and conduct research to provide some guidance in response to your query. The advice is all checked over by one of our qualified supervisors.

What will the advice include?

The response will include:

  • An explanation of the relevant law and how it applies to your issue
  • Links to any useful resources and/or services
  • Guidance on the options available and an outline of how to progress

Our dedication to increasing access to justice

This service helps to increase access to justice for those who do not have access to advice or representation. This is a valuable service notwithstanding the pandemic, but with many in lockdown and facing unprecedented circumstances, it is particularly helpful.

If you have a legal issue and would like advice, then our Online Project is here to help you – find us at:

https://www.lawclinic.org.uk/legaladvice/online

International Women’s Day Blog Post

In the build-up to our ‘Choose to Challenge’ event, we have our second International Women’s Day blog post, written by Margot Nicol, Solicitor and Owner of Nicol, Harvey & Pierce Solicitors, about her experience in the legal industry.

My Father’s Shoes

I am a practising solicitor and proud alumni of Strathclyde Law School. I trained and worked in Glasgow for 6 years before moving to Stranraer. I have been a self-employed, sole practitioner for over 22 years now and principally work at the coal face in both the criminal and civil courts.

My decision to become a lawyer happened suddenly after witnessing my mother sustain a serious injury caused when a glass bottle of a lemonade exploded in her face. Prior to that I had notions of being a lorry driver or a geologist!

I witnessed first-hand the contempt and derision deployed by the lemonade company concerned when they sent out their two suited male representatives to my parents’ house with promises of free lemonade for a year if a disclaimer was signed. It was a fast-moving, working example of the type of situations where inequalities of gender and power could easily result in unfair outcomes. I spotted the inequity then and was inspired into a legal career by a desire to help others in similar situations, fight corners where needed and level the playing fields if possible.

Almost immediately upon leaving the safe haven of Strathclyde Law School to enter the workforce I encountered a full-on affront to my background and gender. I had done Ok at law school and had a few nice extras to detail on my CV which, I thought, boded well for my future employment prospects. However, at one of my first interviews for a traineeship I was brutally informed, in no uncertain terms by the senior, male partner of the firm interviewing me, that “there was no room for me in the profession for three reasons”. He very kindly listed them for me. Firstly, I was from Ayrshire. Secondly, my father was a miner and thirdly I was a woman. I have no doubt my parting words (along the lines of Ayrshire being God’s country, women being incredible and the interviewer’s unfitness to lick my father’s shoes, peppered with a few expletives) put rejection of that job application beyond reasonable doubt!

Although bewildered by this encounter, I was non-the-less undeterred and went on to secure a traineeship with a fine firm where I was privileged to be mastered by two men of integrity. One with an unrivalled work ethic and the other a great orator with fire in his belly. A couple of years later, as I was about to finish my traineeship, I rolled up at a sheriff court to argue my first summary criminal matter, all on my own. The bar officer shouted, “Court!”, we all stood up, and who walked onto the bench but the interviewer from hell, who had now been elevated to the shrieval bench. Suddenly my previous bravado came back to haunt me as I clocked the recognition in the sheriff’s eyes and my mouth went dry. He whispered something to his clerk who then quietly inquired of me, “is your father still a miner?”. That was all I needed to catapult me back into survival mode. With the sweetest smile I could muster I asked the clerk to thank the sheriff for his good wishes and to assure the Sheriff that, not only was my fine father still a miner, I was also still from Ayrshire, I was also still a woman and lest the court forgot, the appeal court was also still in Edinburgh. The sand was marked, and the point made that was needed. My client got a very good result that day!

By digging deep, being fearless and not shrinking from what was right versus what was wrong, gave me the confidence to deal with those particular occasions and many since. The outcomes are not always as successful but that’s acceptable too, provided a spirited, honest effort is always made. Diplomacy is also a good asset. I’m still working on that……

International Women’s Day Blog Post

To celebrate International Women’s Day, University of Strathclyde alumnus, Michele Hughes – Senior Vice President of IT and Business Services at Procter and Gamble, has written about her experience as a woman in the IT industry.

I graduated from Strathclyde University in ’91 with an MEng in Manufacturing Sciences & Engineering. Throughout my studies, I spent more than a year in the Petrochemical/Automotive industries as a female engineering intern. My experiences during that time made me feel that a career as a female engineer in ‘heavy’ engineering industries would be a daily challenge to be taken seriously, to be included and to find a sense of belonging. Upon graduation I made the decision to join Procter & Gamble as an IT systems analyst in their manufacturing plants as it allowed me to bridge the worlds of manufacturing/engineering with the fast-emerging IT industry. That was a life changing decision and throughout the subsequent 30 years, I have had opportunities to live and work all over the world, learn about all facets of running a global business, learn and re-learn the ever-changing IT industry and experience firsthand the power and challenges of achieving an inclusive and diverse workplace. I am currently a Senior Vice President of IT and Business Services based on the global HQ in Cincinnati Ohio.

Throughout my career I have often been the only female in the room and yes, I have been mistakenly taken for the secretary and asked to go get the coffees, the coats and to take the notes! The IT industry was, and continues to be, male dominated where the hustle of a 24×7 work hard/play hard lifestyle is a badge of honour. Despite 30yrs of progress to hire and grow women in IT, I am currently the only female SVP of IT in our company of 100,000 employees. I have been blessed to work in a company which has always put a focus on equality and has zero tolerance for bias or discrimination. This has allowed me to avoid many of the horror stories I hear from women friends in other companies. Despite this, the daily microaggressions persist – being interrupted in meetings, men echoing your ideas as theirs, not being taken as a ‘serious’ IT leader, men making decisions on my behalf around whether I would have the stamina for certain roles or projects, not being invited to the ‘boys’ networking events where decisions get made etc.

My approach has been to ensure I was equally capable in the fundamentals of business and IT as my male peers and then to outshine them in the skills where women tend to excel. Women generally outpace the men on collaboration and relationship skills which are really important in business and on nurturing and growing younger talent. Busy women and mothers are super time efficient and follow the 80/20 rule because they have little choice or else they don’t see their kids! We succeed on sheer tenacity and resilience to never ever surrender.

If I could give my younger self some tips, I would tell her to user her voice and express her opinion earlier in her career. I would tell her to do her homework before the meeting, have a gameplan in mind, speak up and be heard no matter how junior she was. Don’t be that silent person in the corner only sucking oxygen from the room.  I would tell my younger self to worry less about trying to fit in or be liked but instead to determine what you want to be famous for, establish your equity, be yourself and not a corporate clone and then consistently go for it. I would tell her to lift as she grows. Use her increasing power to bring up younger women and to always remember that ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’ so having women in top leadership roles is critical for younger female leaders.

Law Clinic student advisors represent a client at a remote SSSC Hearing

Law Clinic student advisors, Mhairi Strachan and Lauryn Dawber represented a client at a remotely held Temporary Suspension Order SSSC hearing on 8 July 2020.

(Training Officer: Mhairi Strachan)

This was our first experience of representing a worker at a SSSC (Scottish Social Services Council) hearing and our first experience of conducting a hearing remotely. It was certainly challenging with many issues to think carefully about including how our client would manage without support in person, how we would manage communication with each other and the client and how we would manage referring to a bundle while using Microsoft Teams.

We found MS Teams quite difficult to navigate, and between the two of us, we had our fair share of problems with the software. Mhairi ended up needing to use her phone instead of her laptop for the hearing. We could neither see our client, nor communicate with her privately. We overcame this by asking to be put in a private room with her when the panel were speaking in private and when asked whether we would like to take a break, we asked what our client wanted to do.

The hearing was on the application for a temporary suspension order which, if granted, would have a long lasting and very adverse impact on our client. We were able to lead evidence from  our client and another witness and make submissions. After some time  deliberating, the panel decided against a temporary suspension order .

Our client was delighted and we are very happy to have been able to help her achieve this outcome especially  after all of the preparations leading up to and a long day of being involved in the remote hearing. Mhairi and I are very grateful to Kate Laverty, who has supported us in preparing for the hearing.

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Experience of a Summer Student – Ivy Hill

Every year the Law Clinic provides a group of students with the opportunity to work during the summer holidays. The Law Clinic supports clients throughout the year and it has been extremely rewarding to be able to ensure that clients continue to receive high quality support during the summer period.

(Summer Student: Ivy Hill)

This year with COVID-19 preventing us from being together in the office, our summer student roles were carried out online. Despite working from home, the law clinic still managed to keep the comfortable, close-knit working atmosphere between students and supervisors and continue to help our clients. I was hired to take on the role of legal research which meant updating all of the legal information on our website to make it more user friendly. We were very grateful to the Alumni Fund for enabling us to carry our work this summer.

Updating our website and online resources was vital this year because while our offices are closed physically, more people are relying on the website to get information about their legal issues. As a direct result of the Alumni Fund supporting this project, we now feel confident that people can look through our website and find the information they need with ease and in the case that they can’t become a client of the law clinic, we are able to direct them to the website which will help them navigate the process of their case.

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