Scottish first for Strathclyde (1 April 2009)

University of Strathclyde Law School wins Best Contribution by a Law School award for the work of the Law Clinic.

The University of Strathclyde has become the first university in Scotland to win a prestigious award for widening access to legal services.

Strathclyde Law School won the Best Contribution by a Law School award in the LawWorks & Attorney General Student Awards.

The University won its award for the work of its Law Clinic, which offers legal advice to members of the public who do not qualify for Legal Aid but still cannot afford professional fees.

The Law Clinic is the only service of its kind in Scotland and Strathclyde is the first Scottish university to win in the LawWorks & Attorney General Student Awards. Law schools in Scotland and Northern Ireland were invited to enter the awards for the first time this year.

Nine students involved in the Law Clinic were at the awards ceremony, along with Professor Donald Nicolson, founder and chairman of the Clinic. They were presented with their trophy in a ceremony at the House of Lords in Westminster.

Lord Hope of Craighead, Chancellor of the University of Strathclyde, also attended to offer his support. Competition judges described Strathclyde’s contribution to the awards as “a watershed for student pro bono activity in Scotland; long overlooked and now well and truly centre stage.”

Professor Nicolson said: “The Clinic not only provides an invaluable service to the public, by fulfilling unmet need in legal advice. It also gives law students essential, practical experience of the legal profession.

“The Law Clinic has proved to be a hugely successful venture and this award is a great endorsement of our students’ achievements. We look forward to continuing to build on these successes.”

One of the students, Stuart Kelly, said: “It’s a great honour to win this award and to be given commendation by the competition judges. We were told that, as the only law clinic in Scotland, we were serving not just a community but a country and that we were a dynamic group who could help to develop more of a pro bono culture in Scotland.

“We won’t be resting on our laurels and will be working to ensure we strengthen the Law Clinic further.”

The awards, organised by legal charity LawWorks and endorsed by Attorney General Baroness Scotland QC, recognise the contribution of law students to pro bono work- free legal services performed by lawyers for people who have difficulty affording fees.

Strathclyde was also nominated in the Best Team of Students category and for the Best Contribution by an Individual Student- for Alasdair Stewart, Baroness Scotland said: “I am both proud and delighted to be part of this celebration which acknowledges the fine achievements of lawyers who are embarking on their legal career.

“I believe the desire to undertake pro bono work is inherent in every good lawyer; it is part of their DNA. I applaud the ingenuity, passion and commitment of all the winners, and all of the other nominees who have worked tirelessly to keep pro bono work at the very heart of our profession.”

The Attorney General presented the awards alongside LawWorks’ Chairman, Paul Newdick, and Chief Executive, Rebecca Hilsenrath, along with LexisNexis’ Managing Director, Josh Bottomley.

The event was sponsored by legal publisher and information supplier LexisNexis.