UCL Legal Advice Clinic assists its 100th Client
27 March 2017
The UCL Legal Advice Clinic (UCL LAC) is proud to have reached a major milestone in supporting its 100th client, shortly after celebrating its one year anniversary
Launched in January 2016 by the UCL Faculty of Laws, UCL LAC has expanded the Faculty’s research-based teaching and learning programmes through the provision of free legal advice and assistance in UCL Laws’ own advice clinic based in Newham, London. The UCL LAC is singular in it’s integration of a student legal advice clinic into a health centre co-located with a GP practice allowing students to gain a unique perspective on solving legal problems and improving wellbeing.
UCL LAC staff and students celebrating the Clinic’s first birthday
Since opening, the staff of the UCL LAC have worked to develop close relationships with GPs, nurses, and practice staff to increase awareness of our services and the support we are able to provide. Though at times a slow and challenging process, these efforts have meant that our services have grown from offering primarily one-off initial advice, to carrying out a range of full casework, achieving many successful outcomes for clients.
Students and advisers have assisted many severely disabled clients in applying for the welfare benefits they were entitled to and have represented others in welfare benefits tribunals to appeal incorrect decisions.
Additionally, specialist housing advice from UCL LAC has helped young single mothers be re-homed when their accommodation was in such disrepair that it was severely affecting their children’s health, saved several clients from being evicted and ensured that the Council fulfilled its duty to place homeless pensioners in assisted housing.
Professor Dame Hazel Genn, Strategic Director of the UCL Centre for Access to Justice and the Dean of the UCL Faculty of Laws said:
“Supporting 100 clients through the UCL Legal Advice Clinic is a huge milestone, and one we are extremely proud of. The Clinic is the realisation of a long-time aim of UCL Laws, providing an unparalleled learning experience for our students while also further developing our world leading access to justice research. This Clinic not only impacts the lives of the clients and GPs we work with, but through our research has the potential to contribute to wider discussion and policy about how we resolve legal problems and improve wellbeing.”
Under the direction of Professor Dame Hazel Genn, the UCL LAC also provides the setting for an innovative community based research project looking to address an issue of wider societal importance.
Leading research conducted by Professor Genn and others at UCL Laws has long highlighted the direct interaction between unresolved legal problems and health issues. Additionally, recent reports have also indicated that GPs are spending an increasing amount of time on non-health issues leaving less time to deal with the health issues of other patients. A research project has recently begun at the UCL LAC which aims to provide an evidence base for the impact legal advice and the resolution of legal problems can have not only on patients’ health but on the working lives of GPs.
UCL Laws student participants Mark Welch and Humza Hamid with their UCL LAC participation certificates
The UCL LAC represents a leading example of the commitment to the UCL 2034 strategy, evidencing commitment to both London and its residents as well as the educational experience of students, providing them a unique and innovative opportunity to place the law in a wider social and political context. Students will be at the heart of cutting-edge research led by UCL academics.
What the UCL LAC student volunteers say
L-R: Humza Hamid, Gabrielle Bargas, Mark Welch
“Volunteering at the Clinic has been a fantastic and rewarding experience. The opportunity to interact with vulnerable clients, lead interviews, and give advice has been genuinely eye-opening. It was awakening in a sense, as everything becomes real when you’re sat in front of a client, questioning them on information that could help with their tribunal hearing.”- Humza Hamid (Second year LLB student)
“Volunteering at the UCL legal advice clinic showed me, most importantly, how privileged I am to study law at UCL, and brought to my attention issues of access to justice… When I apply for vacation schemes and training contracts, I now have a better understanding of the firm’s expectations for me, and I am better able to reflect upon whether this is the type of work I would like to get involved with.”- Gabrielle Bargas (Second year LLB student)
“Being partly in control of what happens to an individual is both scary and exhilarating, and meeting with clients and trying to make a positive difference in their lives is immensely satisfying. I would recommend this to anyone, especially as the current demand for legal assistance makes free services like these vital.”- Mark Welch (LLM student)
What our clients say
“Very good supportive service. Very helpful, made me feel more relaxed.”
“Very helpful service and helped point me in the right direction”
“Very helpful team with genuine advice. Convenient location.”
“Very helpful and kind, you understand people very nicely, and give time to listen and focus on our issues…After meeting you I got a lot of confidence…Now my health is a bit better than before.”
The Centre for Access to Justice
The UCL Centre for Access to Justice (CAJ), launched in 2013 combines innovative teaching methods and research based learning with the provision of pro bono legal advice to vulnerable communities, incorporating casework and social justice awareness into the law degree programmes we offer. In addition to the UCL LAC, the CAJ also oversees the Faculty’s wider pro bono programme, developing projects than include public legal education workshops for local communities, widening participation and mentoring, and legal research.
To date, over 400 students have taken part in work overseen by CAJ.