University of Bradford School of Law launches free legal advice clinic
A free weekly legal advice clinic has been launched by the University of Bradford School of Law.
Working in partnership with the Bradford and Airedale Citizens Advice Bureau and Law Centre, the Law Clinic offers comprehensive legal advice to those who might otherwise be unable to access justice.
The newly-formed clinic is supervised by University law lecturer and barrister Ian Miller.
Working under his close supervision, final year law students of the University of Bradford will be providing written legal advice to members of the general public on a whole range of legal matters from contractual disputes to family law issues.
Clinic director Ian Miller, who is a practising barrister at Broadway House Chambers, said: “The advice offered by the students will involve informing clients of their legal position and whether they might go about issuing proceedings and, if so, how. If appropriate, the students will write a letter for their client to send to the other party.
“As well as providing a valuable service to the community, the work of the clinic is an integral part of the educational development of the students involved in the project.
“The students who have enrolled to work in the clinic are some of our brightest and most dedicated students.
“They are excited at the prospect of using the knowledge and skills that they have built up over the last two years of their study to help members of their local community.”
He added: “I am excited at the opportunity of showcasing some of our best students whilst helping them to hone their skills and prepare them for a world beyond education.”
Areas of law the students have been dealing with include debt, neighbour disputes, divorce and financial disputes, wills and family cases.
Law student Sannah Khatoon said the experience she is gaining by working in the clinic is invaluable.
“It has been a really positive experience,” she said. “It’s different to anything I’ve had the opportunity to do before and very beneficial to my studies."
“A topic that I have not yet studied came up – debt recovery – so it gave me the opportunity to research that area. I have learned about the Limitation Act 1980 and how old debts are not always recoverable.”
She added: “I now look forward to using my new knowledge to send the client written advice on the matter.”
Sannah’s fellow student, Robin Bennett said dealing with real-life cases has been an excellent addition to his studies. “Being involved in the Law Clinic is really interesting,” he said. “It builds on the skills we have learned studying at the School of Law.
“Last week we had a divorce case involving the division of assets. Last semester I undertook a Family Law module and so I felt very confident in giving advice.
“This morning we had a case regarding a will. A lady wanted advice regarding her husband’s estate because he hadn’t left a will. We are now going to do some research on it and discuss it with some qualified solicitors to be able to give the best advice.”
The Law Clinic’s operations will not simply be limited to advising the public as the lecturers and students of the Law School will be engaging in research into the effects in the city of the reductions in the availability of legal aid and other cuts in funding which are reducing access to justice.
The research will look at how the university can collaborate with providers of legal advice from both the private and charitable sectors to try a fill the void left by cuts in funding.
Robin Lister, senior lecturer at Bradford Law School, said: “The city is fortunate to have a number of agencies who can offer free legal advice to members of the public and many law firms also offer free or ‘pro-bono’ legal advice in certain cases.
“What we at the university seek to do is understand more about the provision of that free legal advice: what advice is available, who most needs it, what gaps exist and how might we go about filling them?”
Ian Miller said that due to funding cuts legal advice in some areas is becoming a preserve of the wealthy.
“The extinguishing of legal aid for many types of family and civil cases has meant that a substantial number of members of our community are unable to access basic legal advice on matters which affect them greatly,” he said.
“Although agencies such as the CAB and Law Centre provide valuable and far reaching advice of a very high quality, there is a plain lack of advice available to those who have family or civil legal problems.
“People speak of ‘justice deserts’; that phrase is by no means an exaggeration. Justice Bradford, as we have termed it, aims to open up legal advice to those who most desperately need it. Justice Bradford will not tolerate a justice desert in our city.”
The law clinic is being held every Wednesday during term time. Clients will receive full and comprehensive written advice within three weeks.
Appointments are held on a Wednesday at the Bradford Citizens Advice Bureau office and can be accessed by attending one of the CAB service drop-in sessions or via the advice line on 03442 451 282. Where an appointment with the Law Clinic is appropriate it will be booked following the CAB initial assessment. Details of Citizens Advice Bradford and Airedale and Bradford Law Centre can be found on the following website.