Wednesday 1 August 2012
The Queen Mary Legal Advice Centre (LAC) provides free legal advice to members of the public, students and college staff. Julie Pinborough, the Legal Advice Centre Manager, tells us about the centre's activities in 2011-12:
At the start of the new academic year students are selected, via applications, to become Student Advisers in the Legal Advice Centre. It’s a competitive process and this year we were able to offer opportunities to seventy-two students. We also selected our new Support Team, drawn from first year undergraduates. Six new members joined our existing team.
In October, our busiest month, Student Advisers commenced their training in client interview skills, research and drafting skills and subject specific training. They began putting law into practice and interviewed their first client. Training this year was provided by solicitors practicing in City firms. This process always brings with it a buzz of nerves and excitement. Our students not only experience their first client interview, but the opportunity to work with solicitors and barristers from City firms.
In November, we celebrated the LAC’s 5th Anniversary. We held a large party, which was attended by the Attorney General, Dominic Grieve. The Attorney General spent time mixing with students from the LAC and the School of Law. It was a fantastic evening, with guests from every part of the legal profession and our students had a great time mixing socially with everyone.
With the Christmas vacation period just around the corner, the LAC began to wind down its client work in December. We took this opportunity to receive a visit from a Court Adviser from Thames Magistrates Court, who offer opportunities for our students to assist them in their work with defendants. We also started to plan an Intellectual Property Law presentation for a local arts group. At the end of the term, we took our Support Team out for our Christmas meal and had a great time together.
January is always our quietest month, when everyone returns from their Christmas holidays. However, this year, we began negotiations with Simmons & Simmons to join us in an innovative project that will start in the new academic year.
In February, the LAC worked with the Guardian Online on a live 'Question and Answer' session. It was an exciting and interesting experience and we were honoured to take part.
Our students took knowledge and experience gained in the LAC to a local arts group. They travelled across London to deliver an Intellectual Property presentation and were thrilled to be able to bring the ‘law to life’ for the arts group.
March was an extremely busy month, both for the LAC and its Student Advisers. Our students submitted their essays for the Field Fisher Waterhouse Prize and they submitted their CVs for an opportunity on one of the 25 guaranteed work placements we offer with our partner firms.
We ran a mini-assessment day at Mishcon de Reya for students who work on our Pink Law project. We also secured both Simmons & Simmons and Bross Bennett as two new law firms for the forthcoming academic year.
We presented the Field Fisher Waterhouse Essay Prize at the School of Law’s internal moot competition final. The two prize winners were awarded a two-week vacation placement at the firm and £1000 as a cash prize. To bring the academic year to an end, we took our Support Team out for a thank you meal in a local restaurant.
In April, our Student Advisers cease in their roles and we operate entirely with volunteer lawyers and barristers, with first year students observing the sessions. Many of these students have applied to become Student Advisers in their second year. We started to plan a new project with Toynbee Hall, the oldest free legal advice centre in the UK, and we also met with local organisations that support the armed services, to see if we could assist them in their work.
From May to September we don’t take on any new client work, although cases continue to run throughout the summer. During this time the LAC Team attended conferences, including one in Doncaster Prison, met with law firms who want to use the Law for the Arts project and worked with students on bespoke projects such as Pink Law cases where the client attends the law firm rather than the LAC. Our more senior Student Advisers worked with us at every step over these months.
The 25 guaranteed work placements started in the summer. The students who secured these places are currently working at various firms including: Field Fisher Waterhouse, Mishcon de Reya, Snaresbrook Court, Reed Smith, Lloyds TSB Legal, Nabas International, Josiah-Lake Gardiner, Westminster Magistrates’ Court, Argent Chambers and Toynbee Hall.