Legal advice clinic
Leicester Law School, through its student pro bono group, runs a well-established legal advice clinic where student legal advisers are able to offer legal advice on a free pro bono basis to fellow students and staff of the University.
The advisers deal with problems ranging from landlords failing to repair broken boilers to employers failing to provide adequate rest breaks. The work of the student legal advisers is overseen by practitioners from local law firms and members of teaching staff from the Law School. The adviser roles are occupied by second and final year students of the Law School.
The clinic offers an invaluable opportunity for student legal advisers to gain insights into how the law that they are learning applies in the context of real disputes affecting members of the public.
Student legal advisers obtain experience of interviewing and communicating effectively with clients, develop their legal research skills, and learn to appreciate the importance of assessing what the most effective solution to a client's needs may be. They also acquire an awareness of the ethical issues that can frequently present themselves whenever legal advice is sought.
The opportunity to volunteer as a student legal adviser is one of the many ways in which Leicester law students are able to demonstrate that they possess the vital skills and attributes that both legal and non-legal employers are looking for in prospective employees.
In addition to this, student legal advisers find the work hugely rewarding, and derive great satisfaction from the knowledge that the time and effort that they have invested in their legal studies at Leicester has benefited other members of the University of Leicester community.
Researching potential miscarriages of justice
Pro bono work researching potential miscarriages of justice at Leicester Law School is a student-run initiative seeking to overturn wrongful convictions. Volunteers work on real-world cases where prisoners claim that they are factually innocent, but have exhausted the traditional routes of appeal.
Students carry out investigative work to try to establish if a conviction is unsafe, with a view to referring those cases where fresh evidence is unearthed back to the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC), the statutory body charged with investigating suspected miscarriages of justice. The CCRC in turn can refer cases to the Court of Appeal if it is thought that there is a "real possibility" that the conviction will not be upheld.
This project is enhanced by the fact that participating students work closely with a supervising solicitor and barrister, as well as benefiting from close academic supervision. We concurrently run two projects each year with a dedicated group of 20 researchers, recruited following a rigorous paper- and interview-based assessment process, organised by existing project workers.
Participating students are afforded the opportunity to attend an annual conference, where they learn about the reality of wrongful convictions, the ways in which the criminal justice system can fail, and what they can do to rectify this situation. This complements a number of training events with external speakers organised within the Leicester Law School throughout the year.
This project is also an excellent educational tool. Researchers gain real insight into how the criminal justice system works, alongside greater understanding of what lawyers actually do, through first-hand experience working on criminal cases. Students are required to carry out legal research and to do casework individually, in pairs and in teams, so they learn how to operate in these different working environments.
Volunteers dedicate on average 3-5 hours per week to analysing documentation such as court reports, eye witness statements, forensic reports and CCTV footage. As such, project workers hone their time management skills, balancing this co-curricular project work with their academic studies.