Flick commends students’ free legal advice service

Flick Drummond, MP for Portsmouth South, attended an event to celebrate the work in the community by law students at the University of Portsmouth.

Students network with Deputy Lord Mayor

Students network with Deputy Lord Mayor

The students run a legal help and advice service offering free and confidential guidance to anyone in the city. Since 2013 their clinics have been providing legal advice across a broad range of civil and social welfare areas, including landlord and tenant disputes, wills and probate, consumer and contract issues, divorce, employment and benefit queries. Student advisors, who are all in their final year of a law degree, are overseen and supported by qualified solicitors and a clinic tutor.

The School of Law General Legal Advice Clinic operates from two local community venues, the John Pounds Centre in Portsea and the Somerstown Community Hub. The scheme is supervised and managed by university teaching fellow and practising solicitor, Gemma Hargrave. She said:

“The clinics have been a great success with both students and local residents benefiting from the free service. We give advice including help with legal processes and filling in forms, all of which can be difficult to understand. In the last 12 months our students have helped over 200 clients, a massive increase from its first year in which we saw just six clients. Legalawschoolleafletl advice can be costly and our clinics have become an accessible part of the local legal landscape with our students recognised as providers of a quality service.

“The students also benefit because employers consistently identify work experience as being crucial to producing ‘business-ready graduates.’  Our graduates have consistently identified work experience as one of five key factors which have helped kick-start their careers and many report that employers have been impressed with the experience gained in the clinics.”

MP Flick Drummond attended the lunch organised by the School of Law in support of local organisations who provide services to the community. The Deputy Lord Mayor, Councillor Ken Ellcome, also attended, as well as representatives from local solicitors, barristers’ chambers and voluntary sector organisations.  District judge, Simon Veysey, said he thought that the scheme was hugely valuable, especially for those who would be unable to pay for a lawyer. He said: “I’m hugely supportive of schemes like this that benefit those people in the community who need it most.”

District judge Simon Veysey

District judge Simon Vasey

Over 35 students had the opportunity to network and talk about the benefits of meeting and advising real clients and they hope to spread the word and attract more local people to seek help at the clinics.

Louis Maskell, age 20, one of the student advisors said the experience had been invaluable and he was getting immense satisfaction working with clients. “We take on the cases and follow them through from start to finish, using our own initiative and researching the subject if we need to. For me personally it’s helping me decide on what I want to do with my career and helping real people solve their problems is much more satisfying than writing an essay!”

The clinics are currently open every Monday morning at Somerstown and every Wednesday afternoon at the John Pounds Centre during university term-time. Appointments in the clinic are up to an hour and are followed up with a letter summarising the advice discussed on the day. More complex cases may be offered a second appointment.  To make an appointment at one of the clinics contact: advice@port.ac.uk or telephone 02392 844 114

The clinics’ continued success means that in February 2017 a new Small Claims Clinic will open as a pilot scheme, developed with the support and encouragement of HM Court Service and members of the local judiciary. Meanwhile the students are working on starting a blog addressing frequently asked legal questions that people can consult.

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