A student-led legal service at Queen Mary, University of London that provides free assistance to members of the public has been shortlisted for three prestigious awards.
The College’s Legal Advice Centre (LAC), which is London’s original undergraduate-run pro bono clinic, is in the running for:
“To be nominated and shortlisted in not one but three coveted awards is a testament to the service we offer, and the calibre of our students,” says Julie Pinborough, LAC Manager.
“In the Lawyer Awards, for instance, we are holding our own against leading law firms such as Clifford Chance, Freshfields and Baker & McKenzie.”
Staffed by law undergraduates, who are all supervised by leading City lawyers, the Centre offers free, impartial advice to people who could not ordinarily afford lawyers’ fees.
Clients benefit from face-to-face contact with student advisors, tailored advice and the opportunity to discuss their problems in a sympathetic environment.
Advice is offered on a broad range of subjects, including landlord and tenant law, employment law and consumer law. Over the past three years, the Centre has gone from gone strength to strength, advising over 900 clients in over 70 areas of law. In 2010 alone, student advisers provided over 2379-hours worth of advice.
The LAC is a contender for the LawWorks Award specifically for its partnership with London law firm Reed Smith.
Reed Smith lawyers and Queen Mary students work together at the LAC and also the Liberty Letter Writing Clinic (LLWC), advising people who write into leading civil liberties organisation, Liberty.
Sarah Ramwell, CSR Manager at Reed Smith, congratulated the LAC for being shortlisted. “The provision of free legal advice to those who are in need is essential. We are proud to work along side Queen Mary in this important service to the community," she said.
In addition to the usual weekly sessions, the LAC also runs five specialist projects: Law for the Arts, which assists people working in London’s creative industries; while Pink Law, Pink Business; and the LGBT Criminal Justice Project, are three schemes all helping members of London’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community.
As with its Pink Business scheme and the LGBT Criminal Justice Project, Pink Law, which started in 2008, is the only one of its kind in higher education.
“Nothing else like it exists where the gay community can receive specialist and focused legal assistance on issues such as employment discrimination, homophobic attacks or civil partnerships, in a safe and secure environment,” says Julie.
She explains that not only do clients benefit from free legal advice, but the service also offers numerous benefits to students, such as the chance to develop professional contacts, coaching from professional solicitors and to become involved in the local community.
“We believe that by offering this opportunity to our students, we are contributing towards the future of ethical legal practice, encouraging a greater pro bono ethos, and strengthening the fundamental right of access to justice.
“All LAC work, be it the provision of legal advice or student training, facilitates the furthering of these goals.”
The Times Higher Education Leadership and Management Awards and the Lawyer Awards will be held at Grosvenor House, London on 16 June and 21 June respectively.
Winners of the LawWorks Awards will be announced on 23 June.
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