King's Legal Clinic

Educating Our Students By Serving The Community

Tag: legal education

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/ 

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.

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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.

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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.

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International Journal of Clinical Legal Education (IJCLE) Conference 2017: Reflection Part 2

2 August 2017 | King’s Legal Clinic20170703_185903

As a King’s Undergraduate Research Fellow focusing on the development of legal clinics in the United Kingdom, I was invited by my supervisor, Mr Steve Levett, to attend the International Journal of Clinical Legal Education Conference at the University of Northumbria. During the three-day event, I attended various seminars focusing on the different forms of legal clinics that have developed in law schools around the world, and learned of the research that has come from this work. From this, I have taken three main conclusions from my time at the IJCLE Conference, on the form of legal clinics, their impact on students, and the many challenges clinicians face.

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International Journal of Clinical Legal Education (IJCLE) Conference 2017: Reflection Part 1

20170703_185836

2 August 2017 | King’s Legal Clinic

The International Journal of Clinical Legal Education (IJCLE) Conference 2017 took place in Newcastle, Monday 3 July to Wednesday 5 July. The conference was a chance for clinicians, from the UK and overseas, to come together and explore the multifaceted role clinicians undertake and how they overcome competing priorities. Much like the role of a clinician, the conference allowed discussion to take place in many forms; from presentations of soon-to-be-published papers to sessions with more interactive elements.

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