Yesterday saw the launch of the extended law clinic at Strathclyde University. Since its inception in 2003, the clinic has expanded to include not only the initial advice sessions in Glasgow, but also an outreach project in Greenock, to the West of Glasgow. Earlier this year, their work as a law clinic was recognised by the LawWorks and Attorney General’s Student Pro Bono Awards 2009, shortlisted for three of the four awards and taking home the award for the Best Contribution by an Individual Law School – this being the first time that the awards have been open to students in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
A Prisons Project has also been designed and run by the Clinic’s student volunteers to offer guidance and information to prisoners on their employment rights, specifically in relation to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974. This will be offered to five prisons in and around the Glasgow area.
Supported financially, by both university sources and externally by law firms, the Law Clinic relies more so on the dedicated time of students, supervising staff and both solicitors and counsel who provide their advice pro bono. The evening was supported by the Lord Advocate, Elish Angiolini, head of the Crown Office which directs all public prosecutions in Scotland. Not only a Strathclyde alumna, but also a strong proponent of pro bono work, the Lord Advocate had earlier this week promoted the National Pro Bono week in Scotland. Lord Phillips, the LibDem peer, spoke highly of the Law Clinic and other law schools (estimated at approx 100 in England and Wales) who offer students the opportunity to work with clients, but also reminded the audience that whilst pro bono can and does work well, there is still an over burdened legal aid system that cannot cope with the increases in legislation. Providing pro bono services can, said Lord Phillips, remind the profession of what they profess... making comparisons to the medical profession with the overarching Hippocratic Oath, there exists no counterpart for the legal profession.
One future development, highlighted by the Law Clinic’s director Prof Donald Nicolson, is the establishment of a clinical LLB at Strathclyde from 2010. This will enable students to reflect on their clinical cases and gain credit for their performance in both training and live case management.
This example of change to the delivery of undergraduate legal education reminded me of the discussions at the UKCLE event in Edinburgh, of which the afternoon sessions are still un-blogged! See the next post...!