Uni law faculty takes legal aid court referral scheme nationwide

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By Judge John Hack on

Keele University expands ‘Clock’ programme in a bid to make the most of dwindling state funding and to assist growing band of litigants-in-person


A three-year-old law school scheme launched in response to swinging cuts to legal aid is being extended nationwide, Keele University has announced.

The Community Legal Outreach Collaboration — or Clock — first kicked off in Staffordshire in 2012. It is now being rolled out nationally thanks to what the university law school describes as an “innovative technology referral system” that directs potential clients to solicitors.

The partnership aims to train law students to qualify as ‘community legal companions’, who devote a day to the scheme every fortnight.

Operating from courtroom desks, they can provide free advice to local communities on how to access what is left of the legal aid system and other affordable legal services. They also assist the rapidly expanding band of litigants-in-person under McKenzie friend principles.

Two Keele law students — Zara Iqbal and Adam Mayer — have been involved with the Clock programme for the best part of 18 months.

Iqbal, 21 and currently in her third year of a law and English degree, has focused on child contact cases from the Clock kiosk at Stoke-on-Trent Combined Court Centre.

Iqbal told Legal Cheek that she was initially cautious about going into the publicly funded family law end of the legal profession, owing to dire warnings about its financial viability.

However, her stint with Clock has convinced her that “my heart is really in it”. She graduates in July and hopes to do the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) before applying for a place on the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC).

Likewise, Mayer intends to pursue a family law career after handling a range of Clock issues at the same court centre.

“There is no doubt that opportunities have been reduced because of the legal aid cuts,” the 20-year-old, third-year law student told Legal Cheek. “But I now have a passion for it.”

So far, the programme has assisted more than 1,500 court users, referring an average of a dozen cases weekly for legal aid applications and affordable legal services.

Jane Krishnadas, director of legal outreach at Keele University law school, commented:

“Clock was set up to draw together the academic, legal, charitable and court sectors, to assist access to services and monitor and identify where individuals have not been able to access fair representation, creating a pathway for the reform of legal aid.

“It’s particularly appropriate that the national roll-out of the initiative coincides with the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta. It reminds us of the principles our justice system was founded on and our civil right to assistance and duty to assist.”