Pro Bono Week: My First Year as a Student Advisor

It is Pro Bono Week, and we wanted to celebrate by posting an article by our student advisor and IAC Deputy Coordinator, Natalie Marshall. Natalie reflects on her first year as a student advisor. Through Natalie’s reflection we see that undertaking pro bono work through the clinic has given Natalie practical experience, confidence, and enhanced skill development. Pro bono work offers this whether you are a law student or practicing solicitor and we recommend everyone to consider undertaking some form of pro bono work. Natalie will also highlight some of her responsibilities through the Executive Committee, taking on casework, and assisting in managing the Initial Advice Clinic project. This is worth reading if you have recently joined the Clinic and would like to find out how to get involved.

(Natalie Marshall, Student Advisor and IAC Deputy Coordinator)

Hi, everyone. My name is Natalie & I’m the Deputy IAC Coordinator within the Strathclyde Law Clinic.

I joined the Law Clinic in October 2021. At that time, my first responsibility was to undertake the compulsory initial advice training provided by Mhairi and Sophie, who both did such a good job in explaining the duties and responsibilities that go along with the role. Unfortunately, due to the Government restrictions in place at the time, this training was conducted over Zoom, but it was conducted in a way which was still really enjoyable. During these training sessions, I learned how the Clinic operates and how to draft correspondence to clients, staff, and fellow advisers. This training programme was extremely insightful and provided me with various examples of how to use my own initiative to make the most of my time in the Clinic, which I continue to try and do.

After completing the training, I decided to step forward for the role of elected member. This involved acting as a key point of contact through which students and staff members can raise highlights or concerns at the monthly Executive Committee meetings. I was responsible for drafting emails to members to make sure they had a voice in the Clinic, as well as working as part of a team to make changes across the Clinic, which also allowed me to learn more about the operation of the Clinic, meet other student advisors and develop relationships with the supervisors.

Around one month into the role of elected member, I decided I would like to gain experience in interviewing clients and reached out to the Initial Advice Clinic coordinators. I had attended the IAC training session and signed up as an “inexperienced” advisor to watch the experienced advisors triage clients and a supervising solicitor then give out legal advice. I began attending regularly and leading my own appointments with a solicitor, which hugely grew my confidence in interfacing with clients.

During the second semester of my first year in the Clinic, I had the opportunity to join a case with an experienced advisor which focused on housing law. This experience allowed me to learn how to directly support a client in their case. I also regularly met with my co-advisor and drafted emails and letters to the client and opposing side. The experienced advisor and supervisor on the case with me were extremely patient and supportive throughout, which I really appreciated.

During the summer there were lots of opportunities to take on more case work which allowed me to take on another 2 housing cases and 1 employment case. These involved a wide variety of tasks, such as meet with clients, draft legal correspondence to the parties involved, and even attending tribunal hearings as a note-taker. I was also able to take on the role of IAC Deputy Co-ordinator – since taking up this role, I have seen first-hand how important this project is to our clients’ ability to  achieve access to justice. I have loved assisting in getting these appointments back in-person in the Clinic office, as well as meeting so many students and solicitors along the way.

I believe my time in the Clinic so far has enhanced my time at Strathclyde massively; I have grown confidence, developed many skills, and gained friendships with many of the people involved. All I have achieved in the past year would not have been possible without the support from the existing student advisors and supervisors who have allowed me to overcome feelings of imposter syndrome and self-doubt. Going forward I hope to see the closing of some of my cases with positive outcomes for the clients I’ve supported and can’t wait to see what lies ahead of the next year!

By Natalie Marshall, Student Advisor and IAC Deputy Coordinator

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