Alasdair Flett is a recent graduate of the University of Strathclyde, having been part of the clinic throughout his studies. Alasdair was heavily involved with our Initial Advice Clinics during his time in the clinic, and was our IAC Coordinator for the year 2022/23, as well as a committed Student Advisor.
When were you in the Clinic?
September 2020 to June 2023.
What are you doing now?
I work as a paralegal for Digby Brown, personal injury lawyers, and will start a traineeship with them come September.
What are some of your favourite Clinic memories?
Working on cases was great, especially when we were able to achieve results for clients and win them money, but I think my favourite Clinic experience was being Initial Advice Clinic coordinator during my diploma year. I wouldn’t recommend taking on that pressure when that course is already so intense but I thrived on the organised chaos of it. It was an adventure trying to navigate from the wholly online format to our current hybrid model.
The best thing about it though was the feeling of becoming part of the Glasgow legal community by getting to know so many solicitors from different firms. Because of the Clinic I was able to build a genuine network and get invaluable and honest advice from people working in diverse areas of the profession. I think that as a student it can be difficult to think about the long view; it’s much easier to focus/fixate on securing a traineeship. When you get to know people from different stages of their career it helps you to put things in perspective.
What was the most nerve-wracking moment of your Clinic career?
The most nerve-wracking moment in my Clinic career was probably when I had to stand in last minute for a co-advisor in Sheriff Court Simple Procedure as a lay representative. I was only in my second year of law and had only just started my property law module. I think I dissected the problem fairly neatly by referring to an oral agreement between neighbours to pay a debt, a vote of the majority to conduct repairs, an analysis of the title deed and an overview of the common law of common property and works of necessity. What I failed to do was discuss where the deed falls silent and the Tenements (Scotland) Act 2004’s Tenement Management Scheme. That was where the whole edifice collapsed in on itself as we were not able to show on the balance of probabilities that the meeting between proprietors had taken place with 48 hours notice.
Frustratingly only a couple of weeks post-hearing we had the lecture on this very point. Ignorance of the law is no defence and it was frustrating to be judged on statute I hadn’t even raised but it did demonstrate the increasingly inquisitorial approach at the lower levels of the justice system. It showed that if there was no preferable coherent version of events that a judge may not grant the win to one party but simply say the bringer of the claim has not done enough to establish their case. Had we been wise to the importance of the TMS it might have been that we would have been unable to find enough evidence of a 48-hour notice period, but it is annoying to think that we didn’t actively seek it out.
Do you have any thoughts on access to justice and the Law Clinic in general?
Official recognition for the Strathclyde Law Clinic is great but when you see the courts (Simple Procedure) and tribunals (Employment) themselves actively encouraging people to seek us out I think that’s more of an indication that there is a systemic gap in legal provision for the less well-off in Scotland. It’s fantastic to be valued and endorsed by the establishment but at the same time, in an ideal world, we shouldn’t really be relied on by the system in the way that we are.
Do you have a message for the Law Clinic’s 20th anniversary?
What the Law Clinic has is unique and impactful. Let’s hope in the future it is less unique and even more impactful. I’d like to see the Clinic get more involved in policy development and the Scottish Parliament. I believe that the Clinic has an important perspective to offer that goes beyond the interests of lawyers as a professional class. It has an overview of the system and an understanding of that system while also remaining apart and critical of it from the point of view of those it leaves behind, intentionally or unwittingly.
We are hosting an event on campus to celebrate our 20th Anniversary on the 21st September 2023. This will provide an opportunity for past and present advisors and friends of the clinic to come together and discuss the issues facing access to justice in our main practice areas: employment, regulation of social service workers and immigration. You can sign-up via the link below: