Raising the Bar
12 December 2016
Six top profile barristers have been mentoring law students who run an award-winning free legal advice clinic.
Barking & Dagenham College law students provide their services to the local community with a free weekly legal advice clinic. Supported by local lawyers and pro bono barristers, the Legal Clinic is run by student volunteers who are all studying Access to Law, a course designed specifically for mature students who want to go on to study at university.
Two years ago, law students decided to set up the clinic after realising there was no Citizen’s Advice Bureau in the area offering support for local people. Focusing primarily on issues to do with housing, benefits and immigration, students have run the free advice clinics on a weekly basis at the College, which take place during term times on Wednesdays from 9am-12pm.
Last Thursday, Simon Cheetham, Barrister, Old Square Chambers and the students’ Lead Mentor, visited the College to train the students. Several other barristers also supported the students on the day including: Michael Mcparland, Quadrant Chambers, Rachel Mahoney, Senior Crown Prosecutor, Christopher Loxton, Head of Bar Pupillage and Bar Barrister and Alan Russell, Senior Lecturer / Solicitor / Founding Director London South Bank University Legal Advice Clinic.
Simon said: “It has been a great privilege to be involved with the Access to Law students at Barking & Dagenham College. They have a high level of enthusiasm and commitment and their involvement in the College Legal Clinic can only be positive.
“The law is an extremely competitive profession, so the practical experience they gain will not only boost their confidence and develop their legal knowledge and core skills, but will also increase their employability.
“At the same time, they will be contributing to a much-needed resource within the community, at a time when public funding for assistance with legal disputes is disappearing. This is a great opportunity for the students and one that deserves support and encouragement.”
Alan Russell, who is the Founding Director of the London South Bank University Legal Advice Clinic, was impressed:
“The Barking & Dagenham College Legal Clinic is a simply excellent development.
“There is a huge unmet need for social welfare law advice in Baking and Dagenham, and the Legal Clinic is helping to meet some of that need. At the same time it offers an exceptional opportunity to build Access Law students' confidence, employability, practical legal knowledge and transferable skills.
“I have been involved in helping train the latest cohort of Legal Clinic student volunteers and I cannot emphasise enough how I impressed I have been by their commitment, enthusiasm, engagement and capabilities.”
The community legal clinic won the Association of Colleges Beacon Award for Widening Participation in Learning, and a cheque for £5,000 earlier this year.