Nottingham Trent’s student-staffed ‘teaching law firm’ launches commercial advice arm

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By Thomas Connelly on

Legal centre was handed an ABS licence by the SRA in 2015

Nottingham Law School’s pioneering law clinic has entered the commercial legal services market for the first time, with the launch of a business and enterprise arm.

Part of Nottingham Trent University, the centre first hit Legal Cheek headlines back in October 2015 when it was granted Alternative Business Structure (ABS) status by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA). Transforming the pro bono clinic into a “teaching law firm”, the upgrade allowed the student-staffed hub to charge for legal advice. Just one year later, the clinic won ‘Best Contribution by a Law School’ at the LawWorks pro bono awards.

Now, the launch of the commercial arm means law students will be able to provide what the university describes as “affordable” commercial legal advice to small businesses, entrepreneurs and charities. This advice will be supervised by qualified solicitors and cover a range of issues including employment rights and intellectual property matters.

Commenting on the launch of the Business and Enterprise Law Service, Nicholas Johnson, senior lecturer and director of pro bono at Nottingham Law School, said:

The number of people in self-employment is growing, as is the number of small to medium sized businesses, and legal costs can take a significant amount out of what may only be a small budget. This new service offers affordable access to initial legal advice on a whole range of topics, while also giving our students valuable commercial skills and experience.

Stressing that free legal advice will remain the centre’s priority, the dean of Nottingham Law School, Professor Janine Griffiths-Baker, added:

The Legal Advice Centre has been involved in a number of commercial advice projects, including the publication of two books on intellectual property, and we’re keen to grow this side of our service. The acquisition of an ABS licence has allowed the centre to expand and while our main focus is still pro bono, we’re now able to offer additional services for a small charge — with any profit going back into the work of the centre.

Nottingham wasn’t the first law school to bag an ABS license. Back in 2015 we brought you the news that The University of Law (ULaw) had secured ABS approval from the regulator, making it the country’s first academic law firm.

According to the SRA’s ABS register, ULaw’s legal advice clinic is licensed to undertake these legal activities: rights of audience, conduct of litigation, reserved instrument activities and administration of oaths.

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