Title: Sustainability of Clinical Programs
Lead Presenter: Catherine Evans
Session Abstract: In 2011 LSBU opened its innovative drop-in Legal Advice Clinic where students, under the supervision of experienced and legally qualified university-employed staff, deliver immediate face to face social welfare law advice to clients from the local community. Since 2011 we have assisted more than 3500 local people, trained over 200 student legal advisors and collaborated with a large number of solicitors and advice agencies in our local legal advice network. In 2013 we worked with our students and the Higher Education Academy to produce a 70 page open access manual for use by other universities interested in setting up a drop in Legal Advice Clinic . We have subsequently extended our clinical provision to include a help desk at our local County Court and, most recently, a support service at the Central Family Court for unrepresented parties in private family law applications. Each year, we recruit 30 second and third year undergraduate law students to work on extended placements in the Clinic (a minimum of 12 x 3 hour weekly sessions). During term-time our Legal Advice Clinic is open to the public for drop-in advice 9 hours each week in 3 x 3 hour sessions. At these drop-in sessions our student volunteers (working in teams of two or three with a supervisor attached to each team) provide basic information on any legal topic, give generalist advice in all social welfare law matters, signpost and refer to appropriate local legal advice agencies and law firms, or refer to the Clinic’s own evening sessions. At these drop-in sessions our student teams have one hour to: take a client’s instructions (i.e. establish the relevant facts and what the client wants to achieve); research the enquiry; deliver their advice to the client; write up a case record once the client has left. Typically each student team will deal with 2 or 3 clients a session. In conjunction with social scientists experienced in quantitative research methods from LSBU’s School of Law and Social Sciences, we have embarked on a research project to investigate whether there is a correlation between a placement in the Clinic and our undergraduate students’ academic attainment. An analysis of the effect of participation in the clinic has been undertaken for the first cohort who participated. The average grade in year 3 modules was the measure of success. Using standard statistical modelling techniques to control for how well they did in their first year summative assessments, we are comparing our Clinic students’ third year results to the third year results of their peers who did not work in the Clinic. Initial findings indicate that involvement in the Clinic has a positive effect on students’ final marks. This paper will present the preliminary findings of our research and contextualise both the research project and the set up and development of the Clinic within the evolving tradition of LSBU as a widening participation, civic university.
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