A TEAM of University of Huddersfield law students who run a clinic that provides free legal advice in the heart of the town centre has received a national award that was handed over at the House of Commons by the Attorney General in person.
The event was the ceremony for the LawWorks & Attorney General Student Pro Bono Awards 2015. The event was administered by LawWorks, an organisation backed by the Law Society that is based in the National Pro Bono Centre. The University of Huddersfield’s Legal Advice Clinic (LAC) was shortlisted for the Best Contribution by a Team of Students. The panel of judges appraised the social impact of the project, the commitment shown by the team members, plus innovative features of the scheme.
Two members of the team of student advisers – Amy Watson and Matthew Gale, who are in the final year of their law degree studies – represented the LAC at the awards ceremony, held in the Terrace Pavilion at the Commons, and they were delighted when the Huddersfield entry was announced as the winner in its category. The Attorney General, Jeremy Wright, presented the trophy.
Also in attendance at the ceremony was Senior Lecturer Philip Drake, who is Director of the LAC. He said that the Centre had been nominated for a LawWorks award in 2014, but had been pipped at the post. “So it was fantastic to go one better and receive an award this time,” he said.
A detailed entry submission provided judges with an appraisal of the impact and success of the LAC, which is based in premises in Huddersfield’s Packhorse shopping centre, meaning that it is easily accessible to people who need free legal advice, mainly because they cannot obtain legal aid.
Free legal advice
Since the start of the academic year in September 2014, the student team at the Legal Advice Clinic has advised 65 clients who had made appointments and provided assistance to 85 clients at drop-in sessions. They had also provided guidance to large numbers of clients at Huddersfield County Court and at Kirklees Law Centre. Between September and December 2014, the students’ total contribution of hours amounted to 935 hours.
The Clinic is a student-led project and has a team of 28 student advisers and two administrators. In addition to the help they provide to clients, their own development as future legal practitioners has been boosted by their work there.
The LawWorks judges learned how “the students have developed into reflective and client needs-focused practitioners. They regularly reflect upon the impact of the law on individuals and issues of access to justice, and place an emphasis on professionalism, ethics and values in law”.
The Legal Advice Clinic has received help and support from the legal profession in Huddersfield and its LawWorks submission was backed up by a letter from Sarah Young, who is a partner in local firm Ridley and Hall Solicitors.