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Law students giving legal advice is becoming ever more a thing as BPP clinic gets official quality mark

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9

Are law students the new legal aid lawyers?

pro bono

BPP University’s London pro bono legal advice clinic has been awarded the Advice Quality Standard (AQS) — strengthening the position of these student-staffed organisations in the legal market.

The AQS is the quality mark for independent advice organisations in the voluntary sector, and the BPP London Legal Advice Clinic (BLAC) is only the second in the country to be given this renowned standard. HKC Law Clinic at Sheffield Hallam University got the first. Expect more law schools to follow.

An external audit process determined that the clinic met the AQS requirements because of, for example, its family and housing client information forms — which were described by Neil Huxtable, AQS auditor, as “particularly impressive”.

These two areas of law are among the most hard hit by the legal aid cuts, which aim to slash £350 million from the £2.1 billion legal aid budget.

Lord Chancellor Gove’s masterplan is to have City lawyers pick up the slack in these areas, but currently it’s poor old students who seem to be mucking in the most. Litigant-in-person charity the Personal Support Unit says that it is largely wannabe solicitors and barristers who have helped it meet an incredible 900% rise in client demand since 2008.

Indeed, such is the potential seen in students to fill the legal aid gap that Nottingham Law School has created a “teaching law firm” that will be staffed by students.

Tony Martin, supervising solicitor at BLAC, reflected on the situation:

The restrictions in legal aid and the cuts in advice services generally have led to an increase in demand for pro bono advice, as many litigants in person struggle with the court and tribunal system.

Unsurprisingly, the demand for BLAC’s services is increasing. Clients are flocking to the centre for advice — the volunteers dealt with 298 telephone enquiries from the public in 2015: 202 about housing, 96 about family.

Clients who contacted the centre were given written advice, and some housing clients were offered representation in mediation and in court.

To students considering doing pro bono work, Evgenia Kabanova, LPC student and BLAC volunteer, says go for it:

The knowledge I have gained whilst volunteering for BLAC is invaluable and I would strongly encourage every BPP University Law School student to sign up for the clinic, however challenging it may sound, as it will also supplement your learning and put theory into practical context.

9 Comments

Anonymous

1. Number of vacancies decreases due to funding cuts.

2. Students carry out more pro bono work to get scarce vacancy.

3. Govt able to further cut funding as pro bono work filling part of the legal aid gap.

4. Fewer vacancies.

5. Students carry out even more pro bono work…

(9)(0)

Anonymous

Ah, we get back to an argument about how doing pro bono is immoral as it damages the legal profession.

Oh, I miss that old argument. It’s like being trapped in a room full of different far left lunatic factions arguing over whether Cuba is the true example of ideal socialism.

(6)(7)

shadowy figure

pro bono is not immoral – it’s good to help people in need

but pro bono should not replace properly resourced legal representation from qualified people. otherwise, the quality of service declines. whether someone gets to keep their benefits/gets damages for racial harassment/gets evicted etc are very important matters and should not be in the hands of inexperienced law students or others not sufficiently experienced in that area of law. replacing universal legal aid with pro bono creates a patchy service where many will fall through the cracks

furthermore there is the more controversial, but I think very valid argument that pro bono is inherently immoral because it takes away a service which people should have by right and replaces it with something that they might have if others are feeling charitable enough. it creates a hierarchical relationship where the client is supposed to be grateful for the service – which is wrong, because proper legal representation is a right.

even if you do not agree with the second point, the first is undeniable

it is a nuanced argument and your careless response makes me doubt that you have understood it

(5)(1)

Not Amused

Pro-bono also damages the people it ‘serves’.

We simply would not do this in medicine. Why on earth are we so gung-ho about doing it in law?

(17)(1)

SodsLaw

“ever more a thing”

Whut.

(5)(1)

Anonymous

“and some housing clients were offered representation … in court.”

Oh for the days when having rights of audience meant something!

(4)(0)

shadowy figure

“Are law students the new legal aid lawyers?”

No! The old legal aid lawyers are the new legal aid laywers! Legal aid is still a thing

this is terrifying

(3)(0)

Pantman

Law students giving legal advice is becoming ever more a thing…

What kind of thing is it becoming? Is it just your straightforward thing type thing, or is a more complicated thingumyjig thing? Maybe just a middle of the road thing?

Or is that really a thing anyway!? I’m so confused about the metaphoric and substantive nature of things these days. Is it possible for an intangible thing to become a substantiated thing through a process of metatransmogrification?

Please help, enquiring minds want to know!

(0)(1)

Laird Lyle of the Isles.

Non pro bono. Est pro exoletorum.

(0)(0)

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