Essex Law Clinic Updates: Autumn Term 2020

Numbers

Update by Clinic Director, Professor Donald Nicolson.

A huge and very warm welcome to our new recruits!
This year a record number of 212 students applied for membership. While a few entered as Silver members either via the Legal Advice Casework module and one as an LLM student, the vast majority joined as Bronze members. As such they have been allocated to one of the four new streams.
Thus 40 students will spend the first term being trained for casework before being eased into taking on cases next term. Similarly, 34 “Bronzies” are being trained in mediation before educating the public about the value of mediation next term. By contrast, 37 are already working with the Freedom Law Clinic on an alleged miscarriage of justice while simultaneously learning about the causes and means of remedying miscarriage of justice.

Finally, 25 Bronzies have been allocated to one of seven projects where they are also mixing actual work with training from an early stage. With the advent of these 137 new students, Clinic membership has been swollen to 237 – 28 more than last year and almost six times bigger than a mere three years ago! We are on our way to becoming the biggest UK law clinic.

Case round up 1

By Adedamola Oni

I can proudly say that I have taken two cases in the Clinic. It was nerve wracking, and I was really scared to do it, but just had to face the fact that ‘If you don’t try, you will never get to know’. That was my motivation towards approaching my first two cases in the Clinic.

I believe the most interesting thing is that I have no previous experience of the areas of law I handled. However, I was lucky to have good partners, and a supportive supervisor. I learnt new things in those cases, and I was able to connect properly with a real client. The feeling of knowing that what you are working on would have a positive impact on someone’s life really put a smile on my face. I loved those two cases from the beginning till the end. It was indeed an amazing experience, and I can’t wait to take on more, and more cases so as to build my experience.

My advice to the newly inducted Silver members who are scared to take a case is to always remember that the start is always the hardest, but with time you would get used to it. If you do not try to take at least one case, you would never understand your strength, weakness, and most importantly your ability on client interviewing.

The British Red Cross Project

Update by Janine Thomas, service manager, refugee support

The British Red Cross works with vulnerable clients at times of crisis. People with the No Recourse to Public Funds restriction imposed on their immigration status are at high risk of homelessness and destitution as they cannot access the safety net of welfare benefits.

This Project supports clients by making applications to the Home Office to lift this restriction. These applications are highly evidential and so can be both time consuming and complex. Working with the students we are able to consider many more applications and we can make a difference to the lives of vulnerable adults and children. We can also give real insight to future lawyers on this area of law and the impact they could make.

Here are some quotes from the clients themselves:

“I want to let you know that I really appreciate your time and effort to making sure my family and I have a new and better life here in the UK”.

“Thank you so much for your assistance, it’s greatly appreciated. Myself & my family are ever so grateful for everything you have done”.

“What fantastic news, I am very excited. Thank you for your help and all your hard work. I will continue celebrating, this gives me peace of mind with three kids – when they reduce my hours, I can apply for support etc. You are God sent. Thank you thank you. I can say that forever”.

Another success
The Red Cross casework support team had another success in September with an application to lift the No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) project accepted by the Home Office, thanks to hard work of Red cross and two of our students, Alistair Burden and Isabelle Palmer. You can read about the clinics previous success with NRPF in our previous post.

Case round-up 2

By Jack Broom

I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t slightly nervous taking on my first two cases for the Law Clinic. I was. Despite the fact the simulation training was very good and as real as it could be, the clients who I would be interviewing with an experienced member had real legal problems and came to us for advice on issues that are very serious. I soon found out, however, that it is normal to be nervous for your first couple of interviews and I was fortunate to work with some very experienced Law Clinic members who were very understanding of my position.

Both cases related to completely different areas of law, which provided me with great experience. As I had never covered either of these topics properly at University, so I had to research them beforehand. One piece of advice I would give for this is to have a meeting with your partner beforehand to discuss the case as this will enable you to be better prepared for the interview itself. Preparation with my partner is the thing that made my first interview a success.

Overall, I would say interviewing clients has been an incredibly rewarding experience as I have been able to give my time to people who are stuck in challenging situations. In addition, it has given me very valuable experience with real clients that I would not have been able to gain in the lecture hall. To any Silver members who have not signed up to do interviews, please do so in October as it is worth giving up your time to do. Yes, you will feel nervous to start with, but you will have a very experienced Clinic member to help guide you along the way, as well as a Supervisor.

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