King's Legal Clinic

Educating Our Students By Serving The Community

Month: August 2020

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)

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