1 Student Law Office Real Problems Real Solutions Real Life
2 Law students help to quash man s robbery conviction. University challenge Students help jailed man prove innocence. Jailed man has six-year conviction quashed as young legal eagles take up his case. Top marks as students clear father of robbery. First class effort brought justice after jail ordeal.
3 The Student Law Office is a free legal service run by law students for members of the public. The SLO is modelled on a solicitor s practice rather than an advisory service and is open to all members of the public. This means that we do not just advise clients. We can represent them in courts and tribunals, giving them a full legal service.
4 fact file Student Law Office Structure Want to know more? Northumbria University is a leader in the field of clinical legal education. We have recently appointed an Associate Dean to further enhance the programme. The law office has a full-time director and deputy director who are both solicitors. Two solicitors are employed to assist in managing the live client programme. We currently have an additional seven supervising solicitors who devote at least one third of their teaching time to law office work We employ an office administrator, two trainees and a bursary student. If you are considering studying at Northumbria University please contact the course secretary on or and check out our website at If you have a legal problem or have a client who might benefit from our help please contact our receptionist on If you are a solicitor and want to know about the experience the Student Law Office gives and the benefits of employing our students please contact Cath Sylvester on or If you want to know more about the Student Law Office and how it operates please contact our receptionist on Philip Plowden Associate Dean, Clinical Education Cath Sylvester Director of the Student Law Office 8 John Horne Solicitor, Senior Lecturer, Legal member of the Mental Health Review Tribunal Service, Mental Health Act Commissioner For several years I was a partner with a firm of solicitors. I had responsibility for the recruitment and training of solicitors and trainee solicitors for the firm. I believe that the Student Law Office provides excellent training for practice. I held that opinion in practice when I referred several clients to the Office. I'm even more convinced now that I have experience of the SLO from 'the inside'. I supervise students in the SLO. Solicitors teaching in the Student Law Office Northumbria University is the trading name of the University of Northumbria at Newcastle. Designed and produced by External Relations DER Z
5 Real problems - How do our students deal with real problems? The Student Law Office has been running cases for members of the public since We offer by far the largest and most comprehensive student run service in the UK. Students take responsibility for running their cases by: interviewing and advising the client analysing the case and researching the law managing their own time, procedures in the office and the progress of the case communicating and negotiating with opponents drafting documents where possible, presenting the case at tribunals/court Students work in pairs in firms of 6. Each firm is dedicated to a particular area of law and all work is supervised by a qualified solicitor experienced in that area of law. Real Problems Our unique integrated LLB (Hons) Exempting law degree allows students to study legal practice at the same time as they learn about the law. Students in their fourth year learn by taking on clients real problems not fictitious ones. Compare the two problems below. One is a real case that our students dealt with, the other a fictitious problem that students are sometimes asked to solve: Alex comes to see you. He served an 8-year prison sentence. His conviction was based largely upon a confession that police officers say he made when he was arrested. Alex denies ever having confessed. He wants to have his conviction quashed and claim compensation for the years he spent in prison. Investigate Alex s case, advise him and attempt to carry out his instructions if possible. Jenny was driving when she felt drowsy. She fell asleep and crashed into Mary, an old enemy, trapping her. When Jenny woke up she decided not to move her car. Kim witnessed this and the sight of it drove her to drink. While drunk she dropped a cigarette in a restaurant and the resulting fire killed two people. These events made Kim mad. She became convinced that her husband was the devil and killed him. Discuss the criminal liability of Jenny and Kim The most striking difference between the Student Law Office and other providers of legal services is that our students conduct a few cases each. We believe that students need time to learn from their cases and develop their skills so usually student advisers work in pairs on no more than a few cases at any one time. 4 The Student Cases accepted by the Law Office provide a wider experience of legal application. Cases are not as black and white as many exam questions would have you believe.there are two sides to every case.
6 fact file Real Solutions We don t just aim to give initial advice. Wherever possible student advisers conduct a case from start to finish. Our students learn first hand how to ensure that their clients best interests are served. At present, these are the areas of work we specialise in, but we are always looking to expand our service in other areas and may be able to help. Employment law including unfair dismissal, unlawful deductions of wages, sex discrimination, racial discrimination, disability discrimination, breaches of working time rules, advice on contracts of employment. One of our most recent cases involves advising a respondent to an appeal to the Employment Appeal Tribunal concerning his rights to annual holiday. We have been awarded a provisional Specialist Quality mark in employment law by the Legal Services Commission. This means that we can carry out publicly funded work in this area. Housing law including claims for disrepair, disputes over tenancy agreements, advice on possession proceedings, harassment and eviction. One of our recent cases involved representing a tenant at a rent assessment committee hearing resulting in his rent being reduced. We have been awarded a provisional Specialist Quality mark in housing by the Legal Services Commission. Real solutions How are the students supported? Each case is fully supervised by a qualified solicitor. The supervisors have responsibility for the conduct of each case. Students propose each next step in their case but no step is taken until the supervisor has considered and approved it with the student. But the supervisor s role goes beyond ensuring that the client s best interests are served. The supervisor helps the student to: reflect on their performance and improve their skills analyse cases and the interaction of legal and related factual issues ensure that they act ethically and professionally reflect on the wider issues that arise from the current legal system and possible reforms of that system Consumer and general contractual disputes (usually those likely to be worth 5,000 or less) including disputes over purchases of furniture, motor vehicles and contracts for services, disputes over double glazing installation, holiday cases. One of our most recent cases involves pursuing compensation for a couple whose first night of their holiday was spent on a park bench. Claims for criminal injury compensation. We have recently been involved in an appeal against the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authorities rejection of an application for compensation worth more than 100,000. Personal injury claims (usually those likely to be worth 1000 or less). We recently acted for an elderly person whose hand had become trapped in a shopping centre door. Due to the value of the case her previous solicitors had not been able to continue conducting it. We managed to achieve a settlement of just under The Student I was involved in an employment firm.this re-enforced my interest in the subject as it transformed what seemed like an academic subject into a practical one with very real consequences that I felt I could shape. My perceptions of employment law changed drastically as did my view of the law in general. It reminded my why I wanted to study law initially. 5
7 fact file How many people have we helped? Statistics 2001 number of cases: /2003 number of students: 140 Client comments The Student Law Office thoroughly researched the law and represented me at the Tribunal. We left my employer at the starting post... I am so grateful to everyone at the Student Law Office for taking me seriously and helping me to prove that having a disability does not mean that your brain stops functioning or that you forget what you have learned. I was very happy with the service and in my experience it could not be improved. I cannot think of any way in which the service could be bettered. I was really impressed with the hard work and general application the students put into my case. I should like to express my appreciation for all their efforts on my behalf.. Everything was handled in the most excellent and professional manner possible. Everyone I spoke to within the Student Law Office was very helpful and pleasant and could not do enough for me. I cannot see that there is any more anyone can do to improve a first class service. Real Solutions Case Profiles Mr W s accident (student advisers: Alex and Susan) Mr W came to us after he was scarred by broken glass when working as a barman. Alex and Susan took full details of the accident and injuries from him and researched the law. They were able to advise him that the bar had failed to provide him with proper safety equipment, when disposing of glass, and training and that he had a good claim for compensation. They wrote to the company s insurers seeking compensation and obtained a medical report on Mr W's injuries. Alex and Susan assessed the value of the claim and agreed with Mr W that an offer be put to the insurers to try to settle the case. The insurers did not promptly respond indicating whether they would pay compensation so Alex and Susan drafted the necessary documents to commence a claim at court. At the last minute, the insurers made an offer of compensation. Alex and Susan considered the offer was too low and Alex telephoned the insurers and, after several calls, was able to negotiate a higher figure that was acceptable to Mr W. Mr A s Housing Problem (student advisors: Jason and Mary) Mr A was moving to Newcastle to study. In June he visited the area and entered into a tenancy agreement for a flat in Newcastle, he paid a deposit and some rent in advance to secure the agreement. He viewed the flat with the landlord before he signed the agreement and was told the flat was about to be refurbished and that when he moved in it would have a new kitchen and bathroom and be redecorated. In September when Mr A arrived in Newcastle to start his studies, he found that the flat was a demolition site. The builders were still working in the property which was dirty, dusty and had no kitchen or bathroom facilities. He was forced to take temporary accommodation in a guest house and eventually found another flat for the year. The landlord sued him for breaking his agreement and for rent for the property. Jason and Mary interviewed Mr A and advised him that he had a defence to the landlord s claim and that he could claim compensation from the landlord. They drafted the documents for him and attended the County Court hearing where the court ordered that the landlord pay to Mr A his rent, deposit, any expenses and compensation for the disruption. Our clients A former client 6 Alex Allan, Daily Mail 12 July 2001 I owe everything to a group of students who believed in me and refused to allow a terrible miscarriage of justice go unnoticed. Alex Allan s conviction for robbery was overturned by the Court of Appeal in 2001.The Student Law Office continues to act for him as he seeks compensation.
8 fact file Real Life Real life a place in the community A career head start Because our students have to tackle problems for real clients and independently research the law on every case that they tackle, they are better prepared for the real world of legal practice. Being given the opportunity to tackle cases of a random subject matter gave rise to the development of research skills and ultimately made me more informed before going into practice. (A former student) Representing clients in courts and tribunals As already mentioned, we take clients right from their initial interview through to their court hearing and beyond. Obviously, for some courts only solicitors or barristers are allowed to appear. However, in tribunals and in the small claims court, non-lawyers (including law students) can appear. Students may therefore be required to conduct the advocacy at a real hearing. This is a daunting prospect at first but they are given appropriate training and preparation and thoroughly enjoy the experience (at least when looking back on it!). I dealt with an unfair dismissal claim which gave me the opportunity of undertaking some advocacy... Not only was this an enjoyable experience but it was something impressive to be included in my C.V. Lorna Shortland, former student. Dedication Their efforts were quite brilliant and utterly outstanding. All I did was present the facts they did all the work. Ed Fitzgerald QC, Daily Mail 12 July 2001 Pro bono work [free work] brings out and reflects the best in lawyers an excellent expression of volunteering, which it is an objective of the Government to promote. Lord Irvine of Lairg, the Lord Chancellor (The Pro Bono Conference, The Law Society, London 17 March 2001) We recognise the need for lawyers to take their place in the community. We offer a valuable free service to all members of the public regardless of need. Additionally we are the first such service in the country to apply for a specialist Quality Mark from the Legal Services Commission. We now have a provisional Specialist Quality Mark in employment and housing law. This will enable us to provide the best service possible to our clients and to give students the opportunity to experience this kind of work. We are also investigating the possibility of funding cases through the use of Conditional Fee Agreements. Our students recognise that they are acting for real people with real problems. The staff and students of the Student Law Office make every effort to give a first class service. The Judge I have no doubt that those students who successfully complete the degree course, having worked in the Student Law Office at Northumbria, are likely to be better equipped to meet the demands practice will place on them than others without such an advantage. His Honour Judge Lancaster 7