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BPP looks to secure welfare benefits for society’s ‘most vulnerable’ with new student-staffed pro bono clinic

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In London and Leeds

BPP Law School is looking to help address the surge in demand for welfare rights advice with the launch of a new pro bono clinic staffed by law students.

The Welfare Rights Legal Advice Clinic will offer legal advice and support in a range of areas from applying for welfare benefits, benefit sanctions, to making appeals to tribunals.

Law students will provide the legal firepower at clinics based in London and Leeds, and under the supervision of Pamela Lalbachan, a qualified solicitor specialising in welfare law.

BPP says it hopes to reach society’s “most vulnerable” who have been left without legal support due to swingeing cuts to legal aid.

Lalbachan, who previously worked for South West London Law Centres, a network of legal advice clinics which provide free legal support on social justice issues, commented:

“While free legal advice can already be found in much needed organisations like Citizens Advice Bureaus and Law Centres, the Welfare Rights Legal Advice Clinic hopes to offer support to existing services by drawing on its solicitors’ and barristers’ expertise to supervise BPP law students who give their time and skills to supporting the community.”

She continued: “Students are very keen to assist in community work that can make a difference while at the same gaining valuable practical experience in the profession they have chosen for their future careers.”

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This isn’t the law school’s first foray into free legal support. In 2015 it was awarded the Advice Quality Standard, a quality mark for independent advice organisations in the voluntary sector, for its pro bono efforts, and has since gone on to launch a range of free advice initiatives including one aimed at tackling rogue landlords.

And it’s not just BPP. Law schools across the country have been ramping up their pro bono efforts, with the likes of City Law School, King’s College London, Bolton, Salford and Hertfordshire universities all launching new initiatives in the past year or so. Meanwhile, a survey undertaken last year found that of the 78 law schools that responded, all but one offered pro bono opportunities for students, while 75% said they planned to increase their existing free advice offerings.

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7 Comments

Rupert

If it keeps those lefty Islington lawyers away from Twitter then I’m all for it

(9)(4)

What, the bear?

Yes, isn’t there a huge connection between some law students doing pro bono work and the prospect of some other lawyers not tweeting as much. Thanks for helping us all out in making sense of how it all fits and phew, it doesn’t sound at all desperate. Good job!

(5)(3)

Al

Whilst schemes like these shouldn’t be necessary (there should be legal aid) it is great to see initiatives like this. It is a real benefit for some of society’s most vulnerable people; and it makes a genuine material difference to people’s lives.

And at the risk of sounding mercenary, it very much benefits the students too. You get some practical real world experience; and gain confidence in dealing with actual clients.

I did FRU and ‘green form’ work in my law school days. That very much paid off. Bar school accepted one of my FRU cases for the ‘tribunals’ elective. And I got a lot of future work out of my green form clients; including a murder case that got me to the HoL.

Of course that might be less of an issue if you fancy Private Equity work (although you never know).

(12)(7)

Anonymous

Pro bono initiatives have every right to exist.

But until law student volunteers are able to receive the same sort of protection under the Equality Act 2010 from racism, sexism and harassment that employees get, as a BAME student, I personally would prefer to offer my legal skills to the public as an contractual employee of an organisation rather than as a volunteer.

(8)(5)

Pick Me - I’ll Repeat Anything A Barrister Says

It’s incredible isn’t it that they parrot the slogan “access to justice” to please others, yet volunteers can’t have an independent judge at a tribunal listen to their case if they face harassment or discrimination within an office.

Never heard a single barrister ever tweet about this. Volunteers are literally sitting ducks and perhaps are even more vulnerable than the tribunal clients they represent, who at least have an independent judge they can approach and the backing of the law.

This would make a great topic for any essays about potential English law reforms.

(7)(0)

Al

You do make a very good point there about the lacuna in protection for volunteers.

You may find the link below interesting. Apologies if this is all already familiar to you. From your comments it may well be.

https://www.pinsentmasons.com/out-law/guides/how-to-ensure-that-volunteers-and-interns-do-not-acquire-employment-rights

It would be a good topic for an article though as you say.

I’m afraid I’m not really one for Twitter; but I do have some involvement with legal training through the Inn; so I’ll mention this to some people. It might be very relevant to things like mini-pupillages.

Thanks for bringing this issue to my attention.

(1)(0)

Cynic

I love how BPP doing something they already did and every law school does is somehow worth an article because of rebranding.

(10)(0)

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