NCLS takes 50 of our students teach year to assist in different areas of law, including debt and welfare services, domestic abuse, housing, employment, immigration, family court support service and private law child contact cases. NCLS student volunteers will have hands-on experience in supporting challenging cases through assisting solicitors, representing clients at benefit tribunals, shadowing, fact-finding, and triaging clients. This is great practice for a legal career. Work for NCLS takes place at UEA Law Clinic and at NCLS’ premises in central Norwich… and of course at courts and tribunals across the county.
The Family Law Advice Service
The family advice service is one of the weekly clinics offered by Norfolk Community Law Service at the Law Clinic. Each week, it offers free legal advice to members of the public needing help with family law matters such as children or relationship breakdown. Students sit in on the meetings and deal with the practical side of running the Clinic, overseen by NCLS volunteer coordinator Judi Lincoln and NCLS family solicitor Rebecca Calthorpe. As a family solicitor, the Clinic’s Chief Operating Officer Polly Morgan is one of the solicitors offering advice each Thursday afternoon, and students are able to see how her UEA Law School modules on Adult Relationships Law and Child Law relate to real situations.
Students who are particularly adept may be selected to join the Family Court Support Service, which involves accompanying clients to court hearings (sometimes known as being a ‘Mckenzie Friend’). A former head of UEA Law School is one of the Mckenzie Friend volunteers.
The Welfare Benefits Clinic
This award-winning service by Norfolk Community Law Service was established in 2013 by two undergraduates from the UEA Law Clinic. It is currently run by Rob Ireland, a UEA Law alumnus who himself started as a student volunteer. The team helps people to appeal against decisions that they think are wrong. Students interview clients, prepare submissions and represent members of the public at the welfare benefits tribunals, undertaking the advocacy on their behalf. They are able to help with all types of benefits and with entitlement appeals, overpayment appeals, and technical appeals including failure to attend, backdating, living together, capital and income appeals. The team has recovered over £7 million in benefits wrongly denied to Norfolk residents who are legally entitled to them. The team – and the members of the public whom they are helping – can be found at the Law Clinic every week.
The Migrant and Immigration Advice Service
Des and Hannah from Norfolk Community Law Service are immigration advisers. They hold a weekly session for clients at the UEA Law Clinic. They specialise in providing advice to migrants from the European Economic Area on issues such as permanent residence, visas, and indefinite leave to remain, family member applications, citizenship and passport applications. Students work to support Des and Hannah in this tightly regulated area of law. This is particularly appropriate as UEA is a diverse community and is recognised as a University of Sanctuary .
The Discrimination Law Service
This team of students assists a discrimination law specialist from the Suffolk Law Centre, under their Tackling Discrimination in the East project, which is funded by the Big Lottery Fund’s Reaching Communities programme. Students attend client interviews with the solicitor, taking case notes and drafting advice letters.
The Employment Law Service
This is a service run by Norfolk Community Law Service Students and supported by our students. One of the solicitors volunteering their time is Owen Warnock, Emeritus Professor of Law at UEA Law School and a former partner at one of the world’s biggest law firm, Eversheds Sutherland, who guides students conducting casework for real clients. In the future, this service will be supported by Deborah McQuinn, a solicitor and a UEA Senior Lecturer in Employment Law, and we hope that clients will be seen at the UEA Law Clinic.
The Domestic Abuse Team
Our students organise the volunteer solicitor rota, meet and greet clients, and enter records onto the client database. The students also sit in on client interviews, take attendance notes, and draft client care letters. Students from the team have also organised Domestic Abuse Awareness events in conjunction with the charity Leeway.
The Debt Advice Service
In 2018, the Eastern Daily Press reported that people in Norwich have some of the highest levels of unsecured personal debt in the country. NCLS’ debt advice service is aimed at those who are particularly vulnerable or who have complex needs such as Offenders, ex-offenders or their families, People with mental health problems, people with learning disabilities and those with a disability or long-term illness. UEA students support the NCLS in-house team by note-taking in client interviews and entering data onto the client database.
The Housing Rent Mediation Scheme
Students support this service offered at court by NCLS, in order to help clients to reach an agreement for the repayment of rent arrears and therefore avoid eviction. The team also record clients’ details, take attendance notes, draft client care letters and manage case files and database records.
I often volunteer at the UEA Law Clinic working alongside solicitors in aiding clients with any legal issues regarding family matters. Working alongside solicitors has really boosted my confidence in dealing with clients. Given the sensitive nature of the cases I work on this has been crucial to the development of my client communication skills. As a student volunteer, my main role is to complete paperwork with the clients and support the solicitors in writing up attendance notes – this being a key skill to the everyday workings of a solicitor. After working at the UEA Law Clinic I know feel propelled and enthused to progress into a career in law given the insight this opportunity has provided me with.Lucy – UEA Law Student
Citizens Advice Digital Hub
Many people will know about Citizens Advice. They offer advice and information to help people with problems with debt, money, benefits, housing, employment issues, immigration, health, family, education and consumer issues. They offer free legal information and advice throughout the UK – including at UEA Law Clinic. In 2019 Citizens Advice Norfolk set up a digital hub at UEA. Staffed by students, the hub answers questions from members of the public seeking legal information and guidance through the Citizens Advice website. The hub has been so successful that in 2020, it will be expanding to offer telephone advice through the National CAB Advice Line as well face-to-face help to the public.
“I volunteered to be a digital advisor for Citizens Advice so that I could connect with the people in my local community. So far, the role has not disappointed! I have been able to engage with the citizens of Norfolk, and the challenges they face, via email and webchat. This has enabled me to support many individuals in finding a way forward.Hannah – A volunteer for CADH
Not only has the role been incredibly rewarding, but it has also helped strengthen my communication, teamwork and research skills. Moreover, the role has given me an insight into the way in which key areas of law work in practice. I am so grateful to have had this opportunity while studying at UEA.”
The Justice Project
UEA’s Justice Project works with people who have been convicted of serious crimes but maintain their innocence, to see if there are grounds to overturn their convictions. Students can often be found in the Law Clinic sifting through evidence boxes to reassess the evidence against the prisoners and identify new lines of enquiry. The project is run in association with the charity Inside Justice, and students work directly with Louise Shorter, its Chief Executive.
We have reached an arrangement with a Cambridge-based barristers’ chambers, Fenners Chambers, to use the law clinic space for Early Neutral Evaluations and private Financial Dispute Resolution Appointments. These are forms of dispute resolution that involve a barrister acting as judge, indicating to the parties what a likely outcome would be if the matter proceeded to a final court hearing, which then informs settlement negotiations. Students will have the opportunity to work alongside solicitors and barristers at these ‘private judicial hearings’.
Street Law volunteers deliver a wide range of awareness-raising sessions on legal issues in local schools and community groups, and at University Open Days and ‘Law Taster’ events’ on campus. Street Law offers students the chance to develop their legal learning and their team-working and communication skills by introducing legal issues to a wider audience.
“I volunteered with Street Law because I believe that if you want to make a change in society it needs to start from a young age. There’s too many people in the UK, and the world I general, who are unaware of their legal rights and responsibilities which leads to unnecessary issues for both people and society. As a volunteer, I had the opportunity to work with teenagers of various ages broadening their horizons through fun law related activities. As a committee member, I managed to be involved in creating and conducting these activities. Through discussions and debates, I found myself exploring new views and ideas which reminded me that you always need to keep an open mind. As for employability, Street Law boosted my time-management, presentation and audience control skills, skills which I believe are essential for lawyers whether they choose to become barristers, solicitors or in-house lawyers.”Andronikos is currently studying in the US for a Master’s Degree and interning at the Cypriot Embassy in Washington DC.
Don’t miss your chance to benefit from the valuable opportunities UEA Law Clinic provides. Keep an eye out for emails with information on how to apply.