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.
During my time at the advice centre, I worked on a range of cases and have encountered a variety of clients, ranging from women who were filing for divorce to harassment cases to a client trying to get a home from his local council following multiple rejections.
What difficulties did you encounter?
One of the difficulties I encountered was trying to deal with the emotional burden carried by clients because not being able to get legal advice would have an affect on many aspects of their lives depended. During a meeting with one client about her harassment case, the client gradually got more and more emotional as the meeting went on. Helping to calm down the client so that she was better able to explain her issue taught me how to communicate with people in the most appropriate way possible and approach them in a way which would not alienate them.
What did you find most interesting and/or challenging?
The most fascinating and demanding case I worked on during my placement was a case involving EU law and housing law. The case was incredibly interesting in terms of both its complex legal issues as well as figuring out how to communicate with a client who spoke very little English. Having never worked on a case independently, I was unsure and not very prepared for the various challenges that arose from my client’s problem. Upon finding out that the client’s case had been rejected three times over the past two years, I decided to find out as much information as possible. My initial work on the case equipped me with very different research skills compared to what I learnt through my studies because the case required me to do a greater depth of research than I had ever done before. The opportunity to work alongside a consulting company with a specialism in EU law, meant that I was able to further develop my knowledge and improve my communication skills. I also came to understand the importance of keeping the client updated throughout the process.
Explaining the information to my client and making sure they understood was also quite challenging; but it was important to ensure the client understood the information so that I could progress further with the case. I really enjoyed working with my client and being able to use my linguistic skills to communicate with them was one of my favourite experiences.
Another aspect of the case which I found both interesting and challenging was having to communicate with the local authority. The long waiting times during endless phone calls and having to speak to several members of staff in order to find out one piece of information taught me to a great deal of patience.
Despite the numerous challenges I have faced during my week at the advice centre, I was able to experience a new environment, I gained invaluable skills and also developed my understanding of the way local councils and the welfare system operate.
By Ana Ben | Ancient History Student, King’s College London