King's Legal Clinic

Educating Our Students By Serving The Community

Author: Hayley Blundell

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)

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