Centre for Access to Justice


UCL Centre for Access to Justice Appoints Graduate as First Trainee Solicitor

17 February 2021

The UCL Centre for Access to Justice is proud to announce the appointment of our first Trainee Solicitor, becoming one of only a small number of universities offering an opportunity of this kind to those wishing to pursue a career in practice.

Image of Michael Marshall CAJ Trainee Solicitor

Located within the UCL Faculty of Laws, the Centre for Access to Justice combines innovative teaching and research-based learning with the provision of legal advice to local communities. Our Integrated Legal Advice Clinic (UCL iLAC), provides a valuable and much needed service to members of the local community. 

UCL iLAC is also the only university clinic that currently has a legal aid contract. 

Michael Marshall, a UCL Laws graduate, has started his training contract this month becoming our first Trainee Solicitor. At a time when access to justice is under even more pressure, and careers opportunities in social welfare law are dwindling, we are delighted to support the career of a talented UCL graduate. 

UCL is one of only a small number of universities offering an opportunity of this kind to those wishing to pursue a career in practice.  

Rachel Knowles, Head of Legal Practice, adds:

 "This is a very exciting moment for UCL iLAC and in the development of the Centre. We’re extremely pleased with what this means we are able to offer those who rely on our services, our local community, and UCL Laws students interested in access to justice issues and Pro Bono work. We’re especially pleased that Michael, as a UCL Laws and Centre alumnus, is able to work with us as part of his career progression. We look forward to what he will achieve with us and bring to the team, and to be play a role in his future successes."

Michael (LLB Law, 2019) reflects on his experience at UCL, the Centre, and at UCL iLAC below:

What attracted you to studying at UCL Laws? 
When I first moved to London I used to cycle all over the city to try to piece it together. On one expedition, before I had seriously considered applying to university, I found myself on the Bloomsbury campus on a really warm and beautiful day. There was an incredible atmosphere about the place that felt magnetic. When I decided to retrain and study law, I applied to UCL partly because of that memory, but also because I felt like the Faculty wanted to accommodate people from a wide array of backgrounds and with a range of different life experiences. There wasn't a methodology behind my decision to apply, more of an instinct that the university was a good fit—one which, happily, has proven to be well founded.

How did your UCL experience inspire or prepare you for your work?
The most inspirational thing about my time at UCL was volunteering at UCL iLAC. When I started the degree, I was working for an association of independent record labels and my intention was to find more work in the music industry after I graduated. That voluntary position made me rethink what I could do with a law degree. It also made me think more critically about the law and its social function. It’s probably not overstating things too much to say that it changed my life.

What have you gone on to do since graduating? 
My son was born about two weeks before I graduated and I have mostly spent the 18 months since trying to get some sense out him. Yet nothing. I moved to the North East with my family for about 8 months while I completed the Legal Practice Course at Northumbria University - a different experience from doing the LLB at UCL but a very positive and welcome one nonetheless. I volunteered at Citizens Advice in Darlington while I studied and then moved back to London to take up a job as a social welfare adviser at UCL iLAC in the Spring of 2020.  And now I'm going straight into my training contract. So there's been a fair amount to keep up with.

How has working at the UCL iLAC been so far?
It’s been a weird time to start a new job. Remote working, and the separation from clients and colleagues that that necessarily entail, has, I think, made things harder overall. There have been lots of radical changes to the law as well, not just due to Covid but because of Brexit too (who remembers Brexit?!). There’s a lot to keep on top of, but at the same time it’s exciting to be working in areas of law that are so fast-moving and dynamic.

Why did you choose to work for the Centre?
There are lots of reasons to want to work for the Centre for Access to Justice. We’re embedded in a world class law faculty and I get to work with brilliant students on a daily basis. I knew my colleagues from my own time as a student at the clinic and I am really privileged to work alongside such a knowledgeable and supportive group of people. It is an incredibly collegiate environment to work in. On top of that, we are able to offer clients long-term casework. This means that we can address the clusters of problems that our clients tend to face, rather than dealing with discrete issues that might not get to the heart of the matter. We’re encouraged to look for systemic issues that we can challenge and I get to work substantively with the law. These things are exciting for a simple nerd such as myself. 

What are your career aspirations?
In the short term, I want to finish my training and qualify as a solicitor. I would like to get very good at what I do and for my work to have the widest possible impact. Beyond that, my aims are to avoid straying into management, to have a healthy work-life balance, and to earn enough to not get stressed about money.

What piece of advice would you give prospective and/or current students? 
If you can volunteer, volunteer. There are lots of small- and medium-sized charities in London that offer advice and that could use your help. If you commit to them and show them that you care about their work, they will probably find a way to pay you. And then: lo, you have paid legal experience to stick on your CV. But more importantly, you will get an insight into areas of law that you won't encounter on your degree, you will learn much more about the city and the people who live here, and it may well lead you to reappraise what it is you want to do with your career.