Student legal advice centre reports rise in cases as legal aid cuts take hold

Kingston University’s Community Legal Advice Centre has reported an increase in the number of cases it handles as cuts to legal aid start to bite.

The centre, launched in September 2012 by Kingston Law School, deals with around two cases each week. Since November, students have taken on over 20 cases. Most disputes are local and have ranged from family matters, financial mis-selling, employment disputes and landlord and tenant disputes.

Law students who man the centre are selected in a competitive process and are mainly third year LLB students. A team of 20 interview clients, research their clients’ situations and draft a letter providing clients with advice on what the client should do next. A small number of local solicitors are allied with the centre to give guidance to students and ensure that the advice they dispense is correct.

The centre is funded via a grant from a university alumni fund and an individual donation from a law school alumnus.

PhD researcher Robert Sugden supervises the centre. He said: “At a time when government cuts are reducing the amount of affordable legal advice available, the centre provides a valuable service to the local community as well as considerable professional benefits to our students. This is free extra help and initiatives like this will become vital in the future as the cuts to legal aid take hold.”

Third year law degree student Liz Fisher said: “I have had the chance to interview actual clients and then research the law and advise accordingly, developing real skills which are appealing to employers. I feel very privileged to have had such an amazing opportunity.”

Last week, students from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London established an international pro bono network (26 March 2013).