An initiative to get law students at Salford University giving legal aid to disadvantaged communities should serve as a reminder that law is about ‘serving the community’ and not just earning money.
The programme is called CLOCK – Community Legal Outreach Collaboration – and a range of students have been fully trained to handle legal issues, with tutors providing performance reviews.
Legal aid has been reduced consistently since 2008 and in 2013 legal aid was removed from civil cases, with studies in Greater Manchester finding that 70% of cases in Civil Court involved people representing themselves due to the expense.
Dr Shane Sullivan, Director of the Salford Law Undergraduate programmes, told MM: “We hope to foster the idea that to practice law is not just about earning money but that it is also about serving the community.
“It is about law as a vocation and the purpose of law to facilitate all to play an equal part in society.
“The cuts in this area have been particularly savage and have had a devastating impact upon the most weak and vulnerable in society.
“The denial of funding and the ability to exercise legal rights is effectively the denial of legal rights and a place in civil society.”
Salford law students from within the Salford Business School will act as a Mackenzie Friend, which was developed in 1971 and permits someone who does not have legal representation to have a companion assist them.
The scheme has received full support from the local judiciary, the Salford Citizen’s Advice Bureau and Salford City Council.
Initial cases – passed to CLOCK from the Citizen’s Advice Bureau – will focus on benefits appeals tribunals and may deal with situations relating to medical assessment or housing benefits, in which the client has lost an appeal.
Third year mature student Kirsty Mayle will be one of the first to participate in the scheme.
“This is the reason I got into law in the first place,” she told MM.
“I’ve had lots of experience of the court system through studying at Salford, like shadowing barristers and am confident I will be able to handle the tribunals.
“To take people who don’t have a voice and are intimidated by the complexity of it all, everyone should be equal and so have access to its court system in the best way.”
The university has other community-orientated schemes such as the Industrial Collaboration Zone Policy which encourages business and industry to interact with and benefit from the community.
As part of this students will provide help and advice on Intellectual Property Rights to businesses.
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