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Nottingham Law School has turned into a ‘teaching law firm’ that will be staffed by students

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Don’t worry, they’ll be supervised

Newton Arkwright

In the latest example of the weird and wonderful effects of the Legal Services Act (LSA) — which basically deregulates all things legal — a law school has managed to turn itself into a law firm that will be staffed by unqualified students.

Nottingham Law School has achieved this feat after the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) accepted its application to become an Alternative Business Structure (ABS) — which means that it is, under the terms of the LSA, a fully operational law firm.

But rather than force students to combine their studies with billing hapless clients for half-baked legal advice, Nottingham says that its new law firm status will be a kind of study aid to help wannabe lawyers gain top notch experience. And students — who will be supervised by qualified lawyers — will initially focus on providing pro bono rather than paid-for legal advice.

The key areas of law advised on will be housing, property, welfare and employment. But in the future Nottingham hopes to move into advising start-ups on intellectual law at knock-down prices.

Nottingham applied for its ABS license earlier this year, but while waiting for approval its rival, the University of Law (ULaw), somehow managed to gets its own paperwork done quicker and in March bagged the title of first ever law school-law firm.

But ULaw’s set up is different in that it’s focused on providing support for those already training at law firms or businesses which cannot offer a training contract dispute litigation seat. Nottingham, on the other hand, is concentrating on current law students. Its new law firm will essentially be a regular university pro bono advice centre that is supercharged by the fact that it has fully regulated professional status.

How significant being an actual law firm will prove to be remains to be seen, but there is no doubt that Nottingham is taking the pro bono aspect of legal education seriously. Since June 2014, more than 200 of its students have spent 10,000 hours advising 180 clients, and £40,000 has been recovered for clients at tribunals.

Nottingham’s associate dean, Jenny Holloway, said becoming a law firm was designed to “enrich our student and community offering” before predicting:

The teaching law firm will provide outstanding educational opportunities for our students.

Meanwhile, Nottingham’s legal advice centre boss, Nick Johnson, suggested that the experience students get from working in the ABS will boost their job prospects, commenting:

The employment market is highly competitive and, along with academic excellence, graduates need to show that they’ve gained as much experience as possible during their studies. Operating as an ABS will give students at all levels the chance to experience a wide range of legal professional practice. The work will not only cover various areas of law, but will also teach students about issues relating to access to justice.

18 Comments

UCL Law Grad

And best of luck to their PI providers.

(10)(4)

Anonymous

Sounds like they have copied Northumbria’s Student Law Office which basically does all this already.

(7)(4)

Anonymous

They hAve done this for years, only difference is the abs status

(1)(0)

Anonymous

Pro Bono experience is invaluable as a student, both for development of practical skills and CV padding. Anecdotally speaking, unqualified giving pro bono advice tend to be more cautious than their qualified non-billing counterparts.
Good luck to them.

(3)(2)

Kuzka's Mother

I wouldn’t pay them for advice. The standard of service would be far too inconsistent. Interesting idea on paper but will mostly be used as a CV padder and be a glorified pro-bono clinic.

(3)(0)

Anonymous

£40,000 to 180 clients. A princely sum of £222 each!

(4)(4)

Anonymous

It says that they have advised 180 clients, not that the £40,000 in tribunal awards was recovered for 180 people. They have not said how many clients these tribunal awards are divided between. Lots of the work they do at the moment is purely advisory and so there is no opportunity to gain awards or settlements in those cases. Most of the students work incredibly hard for their clients; don’t belittle what they do by purposefully misinterpreting the statistics.

(20)(3)

MrShineHimDiamond

In fairness, maths is hard

(2)(2)

Legal Press

I wonder what their retention rates will be like.

Will LC report, gargantuan adjectives included plz?

(6)(1)

Pantman

Or the value off their training contracts.

(2)(0)

Anonymous

More importantly what are their biscuits like?

(2)(1)

Quo Vadis

56 hours per client?!

(1)(0)

Anonymous

Something of a win-win here, the students get valuable experience to enable them to get TCs and the clients get much needed advice.

Except of course that the more schemes like this that are set up, the more successive governments can get away with criminal underfunding of the legal system and legal aid- they know sufficient work is being done by well meaning amateurs to keep the system crawling along.

Less funding = less TCs for students to go into. So the students carry out even more pro bono work to make themselves stand out, the government get away with cutting legal aid even more etc etc etc

Ultimately the only long term winners of a scheme like this are the government.

(3)(0)

Anonymous

I wonder how the news would be received if a hospital staffed predominantly by first or second year medical students were set up.

(5)(2)

Anonymous

If it were made sufficiently clear that you were being attended by students and any advice and/or diagnoses you were given were qualified as such, I can’t say I’d really mind that much.
Free healthcare is widespread; for people who cannot afford qualified legal services there is little alternative.

(1)(0)

Anonymous

https://www.kch.nhs.uk/patientsvisitors/patients/dental-patients/acute-dental-care

‘Treatment at this clinic is provided by dentists in training and junior clinical staff under the supervision of senior clinicians. This means that we can see far fewer patients during university holidays, during the Christmas and Easter periods and from June to mid-September.’

(2)(0)

Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.

Fuark bluds, Akin Gump now pays £43/48k at trainee level. Update yr shiz LC!

(1)(0)

Anonymous

ABS status is probably a decision driven by insurers or financing. I doubt the university provider really wants to make the changes.

(1)(0)

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