Anniversaries are a time of heightened emotion. The Law Clinic’s Tenth Anniversary is no exception.
Perhaps the most obvious emotion evoked is that of pride at what has been achieved in the last ten years: well over a thousand clients assisted, well over half a million pounds won or saved for them, as well as important other outcomes like saving people from eviction or losing their jobs, and a success rate for clients of over 90%. All of this before one counts the many other achievements which were not even part of my original vision: the public legal education programmes in prisons and schools, the investigation of miscarriages of justice through the Innocence Project, the setting up of evening Initial Advice Clinics staffed largely by our alumni, and various law reform and research projects all designed to improve access to justice.
The fact that these other projects came about largely because of the initiative and hard work of our student volunteers underlies the second emotion – that of awe. I have not ceased to be amazed by the enthusiasm, commitment and courage of the students, who not only run the Clinic but also take on the best that legal and other professionals can throw at them whether in the small claims court or tribunals and now even in the intimidating atmosphere of the Sheriff Summary court and beyond.
However, personally, perhaps the most pronounced emotion is the sense of good fortune that a combination of favourable factors has made possible the most rewarding experience of my career. Foremost among these is the student volunteers. However, it also includes a then head of Department with the vision of clinical legal education at Strathclyde and subsequently three very supportive heads of Departments, Faculty Deans, Principals, a series of efficient and warm Clinic administrators, and perhaps above all a University which takes seriously its mission to be a place of useful learning. Equally important in launching and sustaining the Clinic was the financial and other support, most notably in the form of training, from the local legal community and the recruitment of two of its members as supervisors, Kate Laverty and Annabell Fowles, to take the provision of services to a new level of professional competence. In reality, this list does not nearly do justice to the numerous people who have supported the clinic. It does, however, underlie the final emotion which all connected with the Clinic will feel – that of gratitude to all those who have made its success possible.