By Molly Brown and Saadia Bacchus
Law students at Nottingham Trent University have the opportunity to volunteer within the Nottingham Law School’s Legal Advice Centre (LAC). It is an award-winning firm, with the most recent awards Winner of ABS (Alternative Business Structure) of the Year at the Modern Law Awards 2020 and Nottinghamshire Law Society’s Contribution to the Community Award 2020. LAC is a teaching law firm (the first regulated law firm that was integrated into a law school in the country) and boasts an abundance of opportunities for its students.
Recently, we had the opportunity to attend and present at an international student workshop hosted by the University of Bristol Law Clinic. This event focussed on clinical legal education; particularly looking at how this benefits students and how pro-bono legal assistance impacts society on a global scale. The aim of the workshop was to bring together different law clinics from around the globe and share ideas and best practice. Additionally, the workshop aimed to explore the similarities and differences in the approaches to clinical legal education across the different countries. We were extremely excited to attend, to compare whether the method of teaching that we experience is universal and if opportunities available to law students differs globally.
There were over 200 delegates in attendance at the conference, these were fellow law students, and professionals involved in pro bono, from across the globe including India, Spain, Israel and the UK. Several of the universities that attended had the opportunity to present on the legal process in their countries and how their law clinics operate, it was an extremely insightful event. The online recording of the event is available here:
LAC Presentation (our presentation starts at 57:15)
The differences in the clinical legal education are vast; one presenter from Israel looked at the enjoyment of students running these projects and whether it should be a mandatory experience for law students in their country. Whilst a speaker from India gave the insight that in a country with the population of over 1 billion people, pro-bono legal aid is an integral part of their justice system to promote access to justice.
As Chair and Vice-Chair of the Student Pro-Bono Committee at Nottingham Law School, we spoke about the benefits of clinical legal education for students. At the LAC, students gain invaluable experience such as: interviewing clients, producing case files, composing attendance notes, complying with the Solicitors Regulation Authority regulations and conducting legal research. This is a rare opportunity for students of all abilities to gain work experience in a law firm, something that they may not have had until much later in their careers. It develops skills such as empathy, impartiality and professional etiquette. Often, students have to utilise what little information they have been provided with to build a case. This is a skill that is only gained through vocational practice as opposed to in a classroom environment.
We advise any and all students to participate in clinical work experience and implore other institutions with the resources to offer this to do so. The benefits to both students and the global community of pro-bono work are invaluable.
Chair – Student Pro-Bono Committee
Lead Advisor – Nottingham Law School’s Legal Advice Centre
Vice-Chair – Student Pro-Bono Committee
Lead Advisor – Outreach Advice Project