King's Legal Clinic

Educating Our Students By Serving The Community

Volunteering at the Youth Justice Legal Centre

I’m Emilia and I have just completed my LLB in Politics, Philosophy and Law at King’s. in 2020. I was a research volunteer at the Youth Justice Legal Centre (YJLC), a part of the charity Just for Kids Law. The YJLC provides information, guidance and training on youth justice law and process.

My experience there was very valuable to me as these topics are not formally taught at King’s and in most other law schools. Youth justice is generally considered more niche by lawyers – neither the LPC nor the BPTC have compulsory youth justice training. While the youth justice system has evolved out of the wider criminal justice system, there are nonetheless distinctive rules and procedures designed to safeguard children. For example, the aim in this area of law is different to the wider criminal justice system – the welfare and rehabilitation of the child is regarded as central. I therefore got to engage with and learn a whole new set of rules in a very practical way.

My role as a research volunteer primarily involved writing legal updates. These would be on new judgments which would be helpful to practitioners, as well as on important reports and publications, for example by the Ministry of Justice or NGOs. The judgments were varied and always interesting. They often dealt with sentencing decisions rather than the actual conviction and were therefore quite different from those I was used to reading. While I have not covered sentencing law and guidelines during my studies, this is obviously hugely important to lawyers, and so it gave me an insight into what practising in this area actually looked like. Reading reports on the state of the justice system also highlighted to me its flaws, and how recent changes to it have impacted vulnerable children. For these reasons, I think those who are interested in helping vulnerable individuals and wider pro bono work would really benefit from and enjoy volunteering at the YJLC.

Finally, the team who oversaw me and provided me with feedback were all friendly, welcoming and leading practitioners in the field. I was very grateful for the opportunity to have my writing published on their website and to be overseen by experts.

Emilia Pearson

LLB Politics, Philosophy and Law

My Experience as a Module Student with King’s Legal Clinic

The main reason I chose Legal Clinic as a law module in my final year is because I really wanted to see law in action. With all my other law modules, my understanding of the law had been from reading about it in textbooks, rather than seeing it applied in practice. I always wanted to go into Law as a career, but I had never experienced what this would involve. Legal Clinic therefore offered something completely different to what I had been used to in my degree. One of the best things for me was there was a huge variety of the types of cases available to work on.

Over the year I did four cases in my team, and each one was completely different to the other. there was a case dealing with the alleged negligent conduct of a bank; an immigration case where the client facing deportation was seeking leave to remain to stay with their family; a property dispute surrounding the leasehold rights over a block of flats; and finally, a very sensitive family case concerning the contact arrangements for a child between divorced parents.

Although I was familiar with certain areas of law prior to the case commencing, the cases could be complex and required a lot more in-depth research. Certain issues would seem relatively straightforward on paper, but then quickly became much more complicated to resolve. For example, finding out the rules surrounding when a bank would be considered liable in negligence to their customer, or whether a leaseholder in the top floor of flats had property rights over the loft space. Though this made it challenging at times, I developed a much wider understanding of law which I would not have encountered doing my usual academic law modules.

The experience did push me out of my comfort zone at times. Leading an interview with a client is initially quite daunting, especially when you are discussing quite sensitive matters, such as with the family case interview where there were allegations of domestic abuse. However, I found interviewing clients not only gave me more confidence in interacting with clients generally, but it also gave me greater insight into the legal issues people commonly face. I became more aware of how many in the community lack access to legal support and information and how a lot of our clients were litigants in person who faced going to court alone.

So, although it was difficult when informing a client that unfortunately there was little they could do about their legal situation, especially when they had been through a lot of hardship, it was all the more rewarding when providing a client with advice which could make a real difference to their case. Overall, I liked how nothing was ever routine or predictable doing the cases for Legal Clinic; circumstances and issues would keep changing, and this kept it much more interesting for me.

Now that I have finished university, I feel the skills I developed doing the Legal Clinic module have benefited me in the workplace. Currently, I working as an intern for the Her Majesties Court & Tribunal Service and I feel, not only do I better manage the administrative and organisational aspects of the position, but I have more confidence in interacting with customers to resolve their issues. In the future I hope to practice law professionally, and I know these interpersonal skills especially will be hugely important in being a good lawyer and helping clients.

Written By:

Charlotte Pagett (Legal Clinic – Module Student 2019/20)

My experience as a volunteer with Support Through Court

I’m Caterina and I am completing my LLB in Politics, Philosophy and Law at KCL. I am half Italian and half Russian and have been interested in the charity and pro bono sector for a while now. Next year I will be studying an MSc in International Social and Public Policy, focussing on NGO activity.

I got involved with the legal clinic at King’s as a Student Adviser and was immediately struck by how many other extracurricular activities and projects were on offer. Support Through Court seemed a great opportunity to get a better understanding of the legal system in practice. I enjoyed volunteering more than I anticipated and I found it a very well-rounded experience. I learned a lot about court procedure and structure and how best to tactfully help a stranger struggling emotionally.

Some of the clients knew what their main argument was going to be in court but struggled to frame the argument in a skeleton argument or in a professional format. In terms of legal content volunteering at the Royal Courts of Justice especially exposed me to a wide variety of practice areas.

On one occasion, I remember helping five clients in one day with disputes ranging from money claims, to a probate case with jurisdictional issues in France, a disability discrimination in the workplace claim, and a contractual misrepresentation. In a single day as a volunteer, there is simply no limit to the variety of areas of law that you might be enriched in, some of which you might not have even studied during your LLB!

Overall, the role is to make the experience of preparing for and being in court less traumatic and negative. A lot of clients were overwhelmed by the whole process of going to court and found themselves in need of more basic practical help, for instance in navigating the building and the different offices, finding the right form and making sure everything is filled out correctly and sent to the right place. Walking with them rather than having a dismissive attitude is something they appreciated.

Given the stress of the situation for the client, as a volunteer you can contribute a lot even just by making them a cup of tea and letting them talk for a while about their story, struggles and sense of unfairness – something I felt came up in most of these cases.

We also brought comfort by making the tasks look easier and explaining with more positive language what we can do to help them complete their tasks. This often relieved the anxiety clients felt about the procedural aspect. In my experience, even praising them for how far they’ve come, how wellorganised their bundle and documents are, went a long way when a client was tired of feeling unheard. For the same reason, it was extremely important to always be listening actively, taking notes, with their permission, if the story seemed complex, to give them a sense of interest and validation they might not have felt in court.

Support Through Court offices have had to close their doors during the coronavirus pandemic and all face-to-face support has been suspended for the time being. While the world seems to have stopped for some, time certainly has not stopped running for those seeking justice and those who need charities to facilitate their access to it. Just like the King’s Legal Clinic was immediately trying to move their work online, so was Support Through Court, who had recently established a phone helpline to try and help clients remotely.

Something I did not expect to find as a student volunteer but was a very core similarity among the clients was the aversion towards technology. A lot of the Support Through Court
clients are elderly people, who might have disabilities or resource issues which can make any task a lot harder than it might otherwise be.

There are a series of issues which the closure of the office and remote contact may have caused the clients:

When the problem, or rather, the situation they need the most help with is primarily emotional support, my experience taught me it would be difficult for clients to pick up the phone. Some take time and a couple minutes silence or reassurance on the volunteer’s part to even start talking, and that is very difficult over the phone.

Some clients might have children or live in a busy household where calling privately might not even be a practical option. 

I can envisage the clients that are struggling the most right now would be those that simply walk into the office and ask a volunteer to help them understand a document they have been sent – be it a court order or a skeleton argument from the other side. 

All of the above could be compounded by not understanding English well, if English is not their first language.


What a lot of clients want and need is a frank honest discussion with a person who, within limits, understands their story and what the next steps for them are, in what could be a very important and difficult time for them. While the phoneline volunteers I’m sure are doing an excellent job, there are definitely some clients who need face-to-face support.

I am very grateful to the clinic for connecting me with Support Through Court as I found volunteering a formative experience and I really respect the work the charity does having been given the opportunity to understand it better.

On a personal level, this was a good reminder that emotional intelligence is an asset in the legal world and that it is possible to improve on rapport-building skills through practice. I have a newfound appreciation for listening actively and taking tasks a bit slower to really understand when helping someone.   

Written by:

Caterina Cedolini, Politics Philosophy and Law LLB

 

For more information on Support Through Court please visit: https://www.supportthroughcourt.org/ 

My Experience as a Student Administrator for King’s Legal Clinic

I’ve just completed my first year as an undergraduate on the LLB program at King’s College London. On arrival during my orientation week, I was met with a plethora of different opportunities the university had to offer and was ultimately sold after listening to a presentation a student working with the Legal Clinic delivered.

As a fresh Law student studying abroad, it is axiomatic I came with the intention of wanting to participate in all of the opportunities possible and this meant signing up to almost anything which was of interest to me (pro tip: sign up for everything before the uni work starts piling up!).

The Legal Clinic provides several different volunteer roles which include being a student adviser, student administrator, or both. First-years are likely to have less experience with substantive Law at the beginning and  as a result we are only able to apply for the role as a student administrator.

As a summary, the role includes working with guidance from qualified, professional lawyers to take a note of client enquiries, ensuring all of their information is suitable for the clinic to take on the case, and following up with clients wherever necessary.    Admittedly, after being accepted to take on the role, I was unquestionably excited to start but at the same time a little anxious as I had never actually dealt with real-life clients before.

In this case, even though each student received training prior to beginning the position, I felt it was only once I started the practice itself I was able to develop confidence in communicating with clients.    As a whole, working for a clinic which provides free legal service to almost everyone from the general public meant that I was faced with situations where I had to communicate with people from different backgrounds to my own.

Arguably one of the most difficult scenarios I was in was when I was following up with a client in order to draw some missing information from him. Whilst speaking to him, I noticed this case was of sensitive and personal value to him and I had to be wary not to push him too strongly into revealing facts about his case which he perhaps didn’t want to disclose. Being in this situation, in particular, was a big learning experience for me because it was the first time that I had to alter the ‘script’ (which includes a guideline of the questions to ask all clients) in a sense and tailor it to his particular scenario instead.

Having dealt with that not only boosted my confidence within the role at the clinic but also pushed me to enhance my quick-thinking and communicative skills which I believe are essential towards the study of Law. The differing natures of each case we deal with every time we walk into the clinic, whether it be a family, housing, or general inquiry, means that we must adapt to the various circumstances in order to properly succeed in the role.

By studying Law for the first time simultaneously, I was undeniably able to gain an understanding of the difference between Law in theory and in practice as well as put together the knowledge that I had just learnt into better understanding the cases I was dealing with.

Overall, for anyone who’s looking to gain exposure to the legal sector, this role is perfect in doing so.

Written by Pasha Mirpuri (upcoming LLB Law Year 2)

Air Pollution – A Climate Justice Issue

What is the reality and what you can do about it?

The issue at hand

On Monday 18th November 2019, around 40 Law Clinics across the globe, who have committed to the Climate Justice Pledge participated in the inaugural global day of action. These law clinics recognise that climate change is one of the most significant justice issues of our time but not everyone feels its effects in the same way. Women, minorities and more vulnerable or marginalized people are disproportionately affected.

We need to ask ourselves, as citizens, as law students and practitioners – are we thinking about the legal and policy solutions to climate change? Are we enabling all facets of society to be a part of the solution?

The King’s Legal Clinic (KLC) has started to tackle these questions. KLC organised an event entitled Air Pollution: What is the reality and what can you do about it?. We heard from speakers Professor Martin Williams, who is an Air Quality Scientist within the Analytical, Environmental & Forensic Sciences department at King’s College London, and Ms. Jenny Bates, an Air Pollution Campaigner at Friends of the Earth.

Prof. Williams provided an overview of the problems linked to air pollution and their potential solutions. He addressed the topic under the light of the most recently published research and policy initiatives put forward in the field.

Ms. Bates discussed how activists have pushed for action at a local level around the globe and where progress remains a requirement for positive change. She also addressed the inherent inequalities which the lack of effective government policy has accentuated as different groups in society, especially the more vulnerable, are disproportionately affected by poor air quality.

London, we have a (transport) problem

Air pollution is a classic common action problem, like climate change. Individual cars and companies contribute to pollution which harms us all, but responsibility is thinly spread. Air pollution and climate change are also invariably linked through their overlapping causes and how the solutions to one can positively affect the other.

Prof. Williams spoke about the classic example of diesel fuel. Transport has become one of the main sources of carbon monoxide emissions, a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change, and is also understood to be one of the main culprits of air pollution in urban areas through the release of noxious pollutants. These notably include nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and fine particulate matter (PMx). As such, transport has become a central concern for environmental policy-makers and regulators. Its presence and importance in people’s everyday lives means that solutions have to be sensibly implemented, whilst taking into account various factors including social acceptance.

As Ms. Bates pointed out, cities that embrace greener transport systems – electric vehicle charging points, more buses, cycle lanes or pedestrianised areas – have also seen parallel positive effects including general increase in wellbeing. Initially, when road facilities for cars are taken away, a transitional period can lead to what seems like more traffic, fumes escaping from idling cars and confusion. However, Ms. Bates explained these have shown to be temporary problems, if the appropriate alternative transport methods are put into place.

Ultimately, a decrease in the number of cars on the road and miles driven needs to happen especially since, as Prof. Williams pointed out, evidence points to Ultra Low Emission Zones (ULEZ) being one of the most effective measures to decrease air pollution.

Air pollution and its known adverse health effects

As our understanding of the science behind air pollution has increased – Williams noted “…the more research is done, the more evidence we find” for the relationship between concentration of pollutants and risk of death – it has become a pressing public health issue.

Londoners’ concerns with pollution in their city have gone from the mounting price of their laundry bill because of water pollution[1] to how air quality affects the stunted development of children’s lungs[2]. Laws like the Clear Air Act 1956 (the legislative response to “The Great Smog”) have helped, but a recent Royal College of Physicians report shows us there are still around 40 000 deaths a year attributable to air pollution.

Air pollution can be a difficult problem to portray. Its effects are insidious and can appear in the long-term. The personalisation of air pollution and its negative health impacts has become an important part of the activism dedicated to finding solutions. Ms. Bates spoke of the Ella Roberta Family Foundation, started in memory of Ella Roberta after she died of a severe asthma attack. Her mother, whose request for a second inquest investigating the link between Ella’s asthma attack and the illegal air pollution levels in her area was granted, wants poor air quality to be cited as one of her daughter’s causes of death. Ella lived 25 metres from London’s South Circular road.

A 2013 report[3] commissioned by the Greater London Authority found that 82% of the primary schools located in areas where Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) levels were above the EU legal limit were considered deprived.[4] Black, Mixed or “Other” ethnic groups were also found to be more likely to be exposed to unsafe levels of NO2. Whilst NO2 levels have been decreasing, similar findings apply to Particulate Matters (PM), which are known to increase the risk of heart attacks and respiratory diseases and have been linked to premature death. This clearly shows that people from socioeconomic disadvantaged backgrounds are at higher risk of harm from air pollution, as are BME people. These findings undoubtedly highlight some of the inherent inequalities and injustices within our society. Future policies that don’t directly ask the questions “who mostly uses public transport?” and “who lives near busy roads?” fail to acknowledge these climate justice issues and inequalities.

When we think about these questions, we have to acknowledge the existing health inequalities and other injustices. Our solutions must rise to these challenges to ensure a fairer and healthier future for all.

Air pollution and climate justice – who does it affect and where?

Air pollution is not just an issue in cities in the ‘Global North’, nor is it unique to urban areas.

China and India have both had to tackle with acute air pollution. Pictures of the smog in Beijing, as well as social media posts tagged with #HelpDelhiBreathe have circulated around the globe. These issues with air pollution have been important drivers in China’s and India’s national climate policies

In rural areas, indoor air pollution is an important cause of death. UN Women estimates there were over 4 million premature deaths in 2012 from indoor air pollution[5] by cooking with solid fuels; 60% of which were women and girls. As women in some regions are traditionally responsible for their home’s energy collection and use, for example through the collection and burning of firewood, they are essential actors to attaining effective solutions that they also have most to gain from.

The negative effects of climate change, especially as manifested through their adverse effect on health, will continue to be a deeply impactful climate justice issue until effective and inclusive solutions are brought forward at local and national levels. Solutions that are not only normatively more attractive – taking care of the most vulnerable, amplifying voices of communities which have historically been silenced – but more likely to succeed on the policy field. The power of grassroots movements and including people we may not think have an interest in the climate has proven to have a strong impact. It is also understood that climate litigation, similar to the cases brought by ClientEarth challenging the UK’s illegal air pollution levels, is most effective or even dependent on citizens’ mobilisation.[6]

Solutions to air pollution and other climate justice issues need be participatory to be successful.

Striving for better solutions

Climate change is arguably the biggest challenge currently facing humankind, but not everyone is affected in the same way. Women, minorities and more vulnerable or marginalized people are disproportionately at risk. We found out that air pollution follows a similar pattern.

The event ended with a Q&A session which saw a series of diverse and interesting questions arise from an engaged but concerned audience. There was active discussion that showed people are passionate about these issues. The general themes which ran through these questions were “what can we do to make this better?” and “how can the law and lawyers help in finding effective, sustainable, long-term solutions?”.

Prof. Williams and Ms. Bates pointed to research and recent policy efforts, better monitoring and public awareness, local initiatives, implementation of legislation, and legal challenges which have helped to improve air quality. Nevertheless, they both agreed there was still much work to be done, and political will and effective funding was still lacking. While commenting on the importance of lawyers to fight for better air quality, they emphasized the importance of legal standards – the solid ground on which organisations like ClientEarth have brought spearheading legal claims – even where the science is certain. With an Environmental Bill[7] which has not been deemed “fit for purpose”[8], according to critics, and a near-future where the UK may no longer have to adhere to the environmental standards of the EU[9], we could be losing important elements required to hold authorities legally accountable for their negative actions towards our planet.

Whether at a local or global level, it is clear we need continued citizen attention and pressure, as well as clever lawyering, to keep the issue of air pollution on the political agenda, pushing for inclusive solutions for healthier and cleaner air for all.

Written by Lucia Saborio Perez

 

 

 

[1] House of Commons Debate, 23 May 1871, volume 206, column 1220

When discussing the water supply in London and the pollution of its rivers, Mr. Kay-Shuttleworth said “The question, as affecting laundries and the washing of linen, was important. They spent a great deal more in the washing of their shirts than they did in buying them. The total expenditure for soap in London was £1,000,000 a-year”.

http://bit.ly/2FFcAjE

[2] House of Commons Debate, 28 June 2018, volume 643, column 1120

During a debate on improving air quality, Dr. Philippa Whitford explained that “Some 4.5 million children—a third of them—are exposed to unsafe levels [of particulate matters]. If they live near a busy road, they have twice the rate of respiratory problems. We are talking not only about asthma, the obvious one, but about reduced lung development”.

http://bit.ly/2zRvgMV

[3] https://data.london.gov.uk/dataset/analysing-air-pollution-exposure-in-london?resource=0925e909-9e44-4de3-ae72-97497d3c8511

[4] In the UK, schools considered to be deprived are those with higher percentages of pupils who are eligible for free school meals.

[5] https://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2014/air-pollution/en/

[6] https://www.openglobalrights.org/climate-change-and-human-rights-lessons-from-litigation-for-the-amazon/ ; Talk given by Professor Neil Gunningham at Dickson Poon School of Law, King’s College London, ‘Averting Climate Catastrophe: Extinction Rebellion, Business & People Power’, 13 September 2019

[7] Environment Bill 2019

https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/bills/cbill/2019-2019/0003/20003.pdf

[8] https://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/environmental-audit-committee/news-parliament-2017/draft-environment-bill-government-response-19-20/

https://www.edie.net/news/11/Environment-Bill-passes-second-reading-against-widespread-criticism-from-MPs/

[9] Draft Environment (Principles and Governance) Bill 2018

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/draft-environment-principles-and-governance-bill-2018

 

Evidence and Strategic Litigation – My Volunteer Experience

I applied to volunteer with King’s Legal Clinic working on its Evidence & Strategic Litigation research project in the previous academic year. The opportunity to take part in research based volunteering, especially within the context of evidence laws and case construction – an area that is at the core of all legal work – was an opportunity I could not pass up. We were set up in pairs, asked to look into a particular practice and collect as much information on how it works as we could. I was assigned to research asset deprivation powers that local councils have and are using on the elderly going into social care. This is an issue that many, sometimes unwittingly, fall into and it has been reported on by AgeUK and other charities/institutions.

As part of what we did, we submitted multiple Freedom of Information requests to local councils, we got in touch with charities that cater for the elderly, we ran through blogs and social media posts to find out more about what people who have been affected have gone through, and we contacted local news outlets that have reported on the matter. Our end product was a report that we submitted to the project leader that included experiential evidence that we collected from the personal accounts that people have shared, policy materials evidence as reported by the local councils, and statistical evidence on the numbers of people the power was used on and how much the councils obtained as a result.

The experience that I got working with the legal clinic on this project is something you do not get enough of throughout your time in law school. Beyond the ‘issue-rule-result’ format, I got to see how the issue comes to light and is found in the first place. I learned what it takes in terms of research to be able to successful show how the issue you identify works, who it is affecting and what could be done differently. I was able to understand a lot more what it is like putting together the right information and the type of information it takes for a case to come together. Research based volunteering experience is something I definitely would recommend all law students to do as part of their studies – they’ll be able to learn a lot more about how work in the legal sector is.

 

Salman Shaeen, LLB Graduate

SIEP 2019 – Clinical Education at Maastricht University

Through King’s College London’s Staff International Exchange Programme (SIEP), I recently spent a few days visiting the Faculty of Law at Maastricht University to learn more about their approach to clinical legal education.

Continue reading

R (Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2019] EWHC 452

Image credits to Porapak Apichodilok sourced from Pexel

It has been seven years since Theresa May stated in a Telegraph interview her intentions create a ‘hostile environment’ for illegal immigrants. However on 1 March 2019 we saw a drawback in her plans, as one of her initial measures, the ‘Right to Rent’ scheme, was deemed to be discriminatory on the basis of nationality and ethnicity. In R(JCWI) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2019] EWHC 452, the High Court declared such legislation was incompatible under section 4 HRA.

Continue reading

My Experience at Legal Advice Centre (University House)

3 November 2017 | King’s Legal Clinic

I am Ana, a first year Ancient History student at King’s College London. Before starting university this year I decided to spend a week at the Legal Advice Centre (University House) in Bethnal Green, East London. Gaining an insight into the work of the centre was an invaluable experience because of the cases I got to work on and my interactions with clients.

Continue reading

My Experience with Legal Clinics at Cornell University

10 October 2017 | King’s Legal Clinic

 

Cornell Law School

I am Ke Hui, a fourth-year student on the Law with American Legal Studies Programme at King’s College London. During my third year abroad at Cornell Law School, I participated in three legal clinics. Each one of them was a valuable learning experience and each is a story of its own.

Continue reading

« Older posts

© 2020 King's Legal Clinic

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑