Student Advisor, Caitlin Daly, talks about what the initial advice clinics (IAC) are, and why these are not only great for clients, but also for student advisors to get involved in the clinic.
Having only joined the law clinic from last semester, I was keen to get involved and to contribute to helping people gain access to justice. After being involved in two IACs I have found them to be a great asset to the law clinic and I am eager to get involved in the ones still to come.
By definition, the IACs are Initial Advice Clinics where a client can submit an enquiry for on-the-spot legal advice which is given by a volunteer solicitor. An experienced and inexperienced Advisor from the Law Clinic are also present during the call to maintain a flowing structure to the meeting ensuring that the relevant information is discussed and noted. The IACs occur every second Wednesday night, on Zoom, and since they are a set night I can plan my schedule in advance so that I am available to participate.
As I was still getting used to how the law clinic operates, I noticed the first IAC of the second semester was full of volunteers. However, as I was keen to gain an insight into how they operate I emailed Cara Hope, the IAC coordinator at the time, to ask if I could shadow a session. This is something Cara gladly organised.
Communicating with members of the law clinic is imperative as they are very willing to support others and can organise shadow sessions when the IACs are full on the sign-up list. If you are a part of the law clinic and have wanted to get involved in an IAC before, but have missed the sign-up sheet, I recommend reaching out to the IAC coordinator (now Alasdair Flett) as Cara was a great help in letting me still experience an IAC that first week. All the advisors and volunteer solicitors that I have had the privilege of corresponding with, or meeting (virtually), have been so supportive and welcoming. There is a strong sense of individuals coming together for the common goal of providing others with access to justice.
I am very proud to be associated with the law clinic as the IACs are an outstanding service. They are well thought out and an excellent way for clients to be heard and receive instant legal advice. My favourite thing about the IACs so far is the change in mood that the clients have at the end of the call compared to the start. Through witnessing the IACs in action, it is clear that clients need help with their access to justice in terms of being informed about their rights and what remedies are available to them. When the client leaves the call they are satisfied because they leave with information they understand and can now act on.
So far, I have been involved in the IACs as an inexperienced Advisor. My next challenge and goal is to sign up as an experienced Advisor where I will lead the meeting in the admirable standard set out by the advisors I have witnessed to date.
By Caitlin Daly, Student Advisor
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