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Law students provide free information and advice

Law students to give free legal advice

University of Exeter law students are helping vulnerable people who are missing out on legal services by providing free information and advice clinics in Devon.

Cuts to legal aid over the past four years have left many people without funding to pay for legal services. Undergraduates at the University of Exeter Law School hope the new clinics, run as part of their course, will help fill the gap.

The University of Exeter Community Law Clinic opened its doors this month. The first of the clinics to open was the Access to Justice Clinic. Academics and students working in the Clinic run drop-in sessions where people can get legal information about criminal justice, housing, benefits, and employment law. They are staffed by third year students that are supervised by Lecturers, Tia Matt and Dr Luke Price. This sort of pro-bono work is common in the USA but is not offered by many universities in the UK as part of their regular coursework.

Over the next few months, the Community Law Clinic will open its Environmental Law and ELF Exeter Clinic, Immigration Law Clinic, Exeter ECF Clinic, and Insurance Law Clinic. Each of these clinics will run as advice clinics with students taking courses related to the specialized areas. Students working in the Exeter ECF Clinic will help individuals hoping to get legal aid to help with fees for immigration cases. These Exceptional Case Funding applications can be complex to draft, particularly if the person has limited English. Local barristers and solicitors will supervise students in the full advice clinics.

Tia Matt J.D, who oversees the clinics, said: “Cuts to legal aid have left a huge gap in support for people going through the legal process in Devon. We cannot wait for legal aid to come back, likely it won’t. Launching these new clinics is a direct response to this situation, we want to help those that otherwise cannot get help.

“They allow students to support people in their community and also develop their own skills and prepare for the world of work, and put into practice the knowledge they have learned. Law becomes real life rather than something only in a textbook.”

The Access to Justice Clinic, where people can get guidance and support on any legal problem, will be held in the Rougemont Room, on the second floor of Exeter Central Library, from 10:30 to 12:30pm on 8 and 22 November and 6 December. Further dates will be published later in November. 

Date: 2 November 2017

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