20th Anniversary: An Interview with Laura Cheng

When were you in the clinic?

2014 – 2018 and 2019 – 2020

What are you doing now?

I’m currently a Trainee Solicitor due to qualify this October.

Favourite memory of the clinic?

It’s difficult to pick one but 2017/2018 was a memorable year in the clinic. It was during my honours year that I held the role of joint co-ordinator of the Initial Advice Clinics (IACs). I also participated in the University of Miami/Strathclyde Law Clinic summer exchange programme that year. Of course, getting to visit Miami was excellent but the exchange programme was a great way to meet and work with likeminded people in another jurisdiction. It was an eye-opening experience to gain another perspective of other law clinics outside of Scotland to help promote access to justice.

Since there’s too many favourite memories at the clinic, I also have to mention the IACs which are drop-in clinics for the public to receive free initial legal advice. It coincides with the other brilliant work that the clinic does and is ran by volunteer students and volunteer solicitors/trainee solicitors. As a student, I had the privilege of managing the sessions in 2017/2018 – some evenings could range from seeing a few clients to 20+ but the team of volunteers who dedicated their time and efforts to assist clients made it so rewarding.

I’m happy that I still keep in touch with the friends I made in the clinic, as well as some of the legal professionals who volunteered. During the start of my traineeship, I had a “full circle” moment where I volunteered as a Trainee Solicitor as opposed to a student volunteer at the IACs. For me, the clinic cultivates a real sense of community, and it provided many valuable (and fun!) learning opportunities.

Most nerve-wracking moment?

Aside from being allocated my first ever case at the clinic, my most nerve-wracking moment outside of client work was when Kate (current Director) asked Kirstie (my fellow IAC coordinator who later held Student Director to speak in front of new students during their induction week about the clinic. It not only felt like a big responsibility to represent the clinic but also to encourage students to apply for the new intake. Public speaking in front of a few hundred people isn’t something that I’d naturally jump for joy at – I pictured lots of tumbleweed and positive thoughts such as “what if nobody applies after our talk…?”.

However, it was an honour to be asked and I was happy to share my experiences. The work that the clinic does wouldn’t be possible without the students and supervisors which hopefully inspired the new intake. I’m glad to say that we had a record number of applications that year!

Best takeaway from the clinic?

The clinic provides such a unique experience being able to gain practical experience while studying. I believe it helped my studies and future work prospects, but I also apply what I learned during the clinic in my current role as a Trainee Solicitor.

For many clients at the clinic, their issues can be very personal to them and, in some cases, particularly if it involves their jobs or homes. As such, it was important to keep the client informed throughout the case and explain legal concepts in a digestible manner. However, throughout my time in the clinic, I also learned that clients also valued being listened to. Not only was this applicable as a Student Advisor but in my current role, it is important to build client rapport and provide high levels of client care in order to seek the best outcome for clients.

Message to clinic on 20th birthday?

Happy 20th Birthday! It’s amazing to see the clinic go from strength to strength continuing to promote access to justice after 20 years. Although I’m no longer a student, I know that I’ll always be welcome in the clinic either as a volunteer at the IACs or as part of the alumni. Whilst there is still a lot of work to be done to continue to improve access to justice in the legal sphere, I will always be rooting for the clinic and am grateful to have played a small part in it. Well done to the students, supervisors, and volunteer solicitors (past and present) who have contributed and made a difference. I look forward to seeing some of you in September for the clinic’s 20th anniversary!

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: